The Word-less “Church”

from W. Robert Godfrey



Many American churches are in a mess. Theologically they are indifferent, confused, or dangerously wrong. Liturgically they are the captives of superficial fads. Morally they live lives indistinguishable from the world. They often have a lot of people, money, and activities. But are they really churches, or have they degenerated into peculiar clubs?

What has gone wrong? At the heart of the mess is a simple phenomenon: the churches seem to have lost a love for and confidence in the Word of God. They still carry Bibles and declare the authority of the Scriptures. They still have sermons based on Bible verses and still have Bible study classes. But not much of the Bible is actually read in their services. Their sermons and studies usually do not examine the Bible to see what it thinks is important for the people of God. Increasingly they treat the Bible as tidbits of poetic inspiration, of pop psychology, and of self-help advice. Congregations where the Bible is ignored or abused are in the gravest peril. Churches that depart from the Word will soon find that God has departed from them.

What solution does the Bible teach for this sad situation? The short but profound answer is given by Paul in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” We need the Word to dwell in us richly so that we will know the truths that God thinks are most important and so that we will know His purposes and priorities. We need to be concerned less about “felt-needs” and more about the real needs of lost sinners as taught in the Bible.

Paul not only calls us here to have the Word dwell in us richly, but shows us what that rich experience of the Word looks like. He shows us that in three points. (Paul was a preacher, after all.)

First, he calls us to be educated by the Word, which will lead us on to ever-richer wisdom by “teaching and admonishing one another.” Paul is reminding us that the Word must be taught and applied to us as a part of it dwelling richly in us. The church must encourage and facilitate such teaching whether in preaching, Bible studies, reading, or conversations. We must be growing in the Word.

It is not just information, however, that we are to be gathering from the Word. We must be growing in a knowledge of the will of God for us: “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Col. 1:9). Knowing the will of God will make us wise and in that wisdom we will be renewed in the image of our Creator, an image so damaged by sin: “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (3:10).

This wisdom will also reorder our priorities and purposes, from that which is worldly to that which is heavenly: “The hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel” (1:5). When that Word dwells in us richly we can be confident that we know the full will of God: “I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known” (1:25). From the Bible we know all that we need for salvation and godliness.

Second, Paul calls us to expressing the Word from ever-renewed hearts in our “singing.” Interestingly, Paul connects the Word dwelling in us richly with singing. He reminds us that singing is an invaluable means of placing the truth of God deep in our minds and hearts. I have known of elderly Christians far gone with Alzheimer’s disease who can still sing songs of praise to God. Singing also helps connect truth to our emotions. It helps us experience the encouragement and assurance of our faith: “That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:2–3).

The importance of singing, of course, makes the content of our songs vital. If we sing shallow, repetitive songs, we will not be hiding much of the Word in our hearts. But if we sing the Word itself in its fullness and richness, we will be making ourselves rich indeed. We need to remember that God has given us a book of songs, the Psalter, to help us in our singing.

Third, Paul calls us to remember the effect of the Word to make us a people with ever-ready “thanksgiving.” Three times in Colossians 3:15–17 Paul calls us to thankfulness. When the “word of Christ” dwells in us richly, we will be led on to lives of gratitude. As we learn and contemplate all that God has done for us in creation, providence, and redemption, we will be filled with thanksgiving. As we recall His promises of forgiveness, renewal, preservation, and glory, we will live as a truly thankful people.

We need the word of Christ to dwell in us richly today more than ever. Then churches may escape being a mess and become the radiant body of Christ as God intended.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

from W. Robert Godfrey

“Who Broke My Church?”

A post popped up on Facebook thanking those who pre-ordered a #1 best seller with the above title. How books become best sellers because of pre-orders is beyond me. Maybe the author is popular. I had never heard of this author until this ‘suggested’ post pepped un on FB. So I looked him up. He is also known as The Church Doctor and has published a lot of books with catchy titles. He has an educational background that includes a Ph.D. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and a D.Min degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. He is the author of 30 books on the subject of church health, vitality, and the effectiveness of the church. The book’s full title is: Who Broke My Church?: 7 Strategies that Change Everything.

At a glance, I would say that he probably has some good things to say. I really don’t know since I have not read his books. Therefore this post is NOT a book review. The title caught my attention.

When I saw the question ‘Who broke my church?’ My immediate thought was “If the church IS broken, we who profess Christ broke it!” You are probably wondering why I say that, so I’ll tell you.

First of all, I want to say that the true church, Jesus’ church will NEVER break because Jesus said “I will build my church and the gates of hell will NEVER prevail against it. That begs the question, “Which church is Dr. Hunt talking about?” I don’t know since I haven’t read the book, but I can say it might be the church that man builds. It is that church to which I refer. Depending on what constitutes a ‘broken’ church, a church can break apart in many ways. And it is we who profess Christ who break it! While I will leave you, the reader, to speculate on specific ways it it broken (we are great speculators since we always have opinions)’ I would like to take it up a notch to something that seems to have happened over at least the years that drives many, if not most of the ‘brokenness’ in today’s church.

In a nutshell, today’s church has become ‘man’ centered instead of ‘God’ centered, and It is men who caused the shift, not God. Therefore, as I said before, if it’s broken, WE broke it. The answer is in the question. . .

If it’s YOUR (man’s) broken church, you (men) broke it!


NOTE: The above short rant is in no way critical of the referenced book but merely an old guy’s opinion.

Sermons and Pep Rallies

Has anyone else noticed the similarities between some of today’s ‘sermons’ and high school pep rallies, or am I just nuts?

Remember those pep rallies in which we were told to say/repeat stuff at the command of whoever was leading it? 

I jst love stened to yet another sermon/talk delivered at a pupular megachurch in which the folks in the pews/theater,seats are being told now and again ‘everyone say’ or ‘can you say’ something (you fill it in).

Regretably, none of these instances has anything to do with scripture. No one is collectively reading scripture or reciting an inportant creed. They are just being told to repeat or say something the speaker has chosen for them., just like at the high school peprallies I remember.

Sad, really sad.

Food for thought on a Sunday morning.

“Feed My Sheep”‘

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep”.

John 21:15-17 (ESV)

We know with the story:

7 of Jesus’ Disciples had returned to their previous occupation of fishing (for real fish instead of men), had fished all night and caught nothing. A man (Jesus) on the shore and called out to them and told them to toss their net on the right side of the boat instead of the left, which had not resulted in a single minnow, much less any fish. They obeyed and had such a haul they couldn’t get all the fish into their boat.

Once ashore, the man who had called out to them already had a good breakfast going and invited them to join him. It was then that they recognized their Lord. After a hearty breakfast Jesus took the opportunity to Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Naturally Peter answered in the affirmative all three times, and even might have wondered why Jesus asked so many times! We are not told. We are given Jesus’ direction to Peter after each answer:

“Feed my lambs.”

“Tend my sheep.”

“Feed my sheep.”

You might say that Jesus told Peter to become a sheep herder! He told him to take care of sheep, young ones and older ones. Has that ever happened to you? Read a story many times and suddenly something literally jumps out at you?

First of all Jesus said “Feed MY sheep. Those needing care and nurture belong to Christ, not to Peter, not a particular group of believers, but to Jesus himself! Pastors, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, you are to care for JESUS property! That knowledge should give you great pause, should it not?

Secondly, Jesus told Peter to “Feed my SHEEP, tending them and nurturing them to maturity. That should tell us in no uncertain terms the purpose of the church, Christ’s church, not yours. The mission of the church is the care and feeding of the sheep of God. Should ‘goats’ be invited and welcome in our churches? By all means! The main reason the church exists however, is for the ‘sheep of God’, not the’ goats of the world’.

I listened to one popular megachurch pastor tell his congregation one Sunday morning “This is the last Sunday this church is about YOU!” No kidding. While most of today’s so called ‘pastors’ won’t go quite that far, they ‘manage’ their churches with the same mindset, offering all sorts of ‘worldly’ enticements to make following Jesus a really cool/hip thing to do. But listen to what Jesus said to his disciples near the very end of his earthly ministry:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

The ‘world’ in Jesus’ time hated him and the world in our time will hate us when we stand for the true gospel that Christ came to save men from their sin, not to fulfill their wildest dreams.

Then we have the Apostle Paul who, by his own admission, preached nothing but Christ crucified for the sins of men:

“For we (gospel messengers) are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Cor: 15-16)

In other words, the aroma of Christ is sweet to the ‘sheep of God’ but that same aroma of Christ smells like death and destruction to the ‘goats of the world’.

So why do we do what we do? We try to make Christ and his gospel smell sweet to the stony hearted unbeliever to get them through the doors and then tell them that Christ died for their self-fulfillment rather than for their sin. After all, we know that if we start talking about sin the ‘bait and switch’ will be on and oh so obvious to the goats you lured through the church doors. Unless God is doing a supernatural ‘heart work’, they’re walking and they ain’t coming back any time soon!

What’s the answer to this mess? Whether it’s a church setting or personal evangelism, it’s really quite simple.

1. Pray that God open hearts to hear the true gospel.

2. Preach the true gospel.

3. Leave the ‘saving’ to God.

The Church’s Chief End

An Article by Peter Barnes, From The Banner of Truth

There  is  much  debate  in  the  modern  church  about  what  exactly  is  her  mission.  Often  the  answer  that  is  given  is  not  so  much  wrong  as  lop-sided,  and  exaggerated  implications  and  conclusions  are  drawn  from  that.  There  are  probably  three  main  views:  the  Church  exists  to  glorify  God;  the  Church  exists  to  build  up  the  saints;  and  the  Church  exists  for  mission,  to  evangelize  the  world.  These  three  views  should  not  be  played  off  against  one  another,  and  a  grasp  of  each  one  will  prevent  us  from  misinterpreting  any  one  of  them.

The  Church’s  first  task,  surely,  is  to  glorify  God.  Paul  says  that  ‘whether  you  eat  or  drink,  or  whatever  you  do,  do  all  to  the  glory  of  God’  (1 Cor.10:31).  Earlier  in  1 Corinthians,  Paul  had  said,  in  the  context  of  sexual  ethics,  that  we  are  to  glorify  God  in  our  bodies  (1 Cor.6:20).  The  unbeliever  is  meant  to  see  the  good  deeds  of  the  Christian  and  go  on  to  glorify  God  (1 Pet.2:12).  The  Psalmist  tells  us  of  God’s  attributes  and  character  in  such  a  way  that  we  are  meant  to  glorify  and  worship  our  creator  and  Lord:  ‘Your  righteousness,  O  God,  reaches  the  high  heavens. You  who  have  done  great  things,  O  God,  who  is  like  You?’  (Ps.71:19)

In  fact,  ‘Great  is  the  Lord,  and  greatly  to  be  praised,  and  His  greatness  is  unsearchable’  (Psalm 145:3).  This  is  to  be  reflected  in  our  meetings  together.  They  are  not  just  to  be  where  we  are  encouraged  or  learn  something  that  is  handy  for  daily  living.  The  priority  is  not  that  we  ‘get  something’  out  of  the  service.  Rather,  it  is  that  God  is  glorified  with  true  adoration  and  praise.  Paul  holds  out  the  hope  that  an  unbeliever  or  outsider  might  enter  the  meeting,  and  be  convicted  and  called to  account.  The  secrets  of  his  heart  are disclosed,  and  so,  falling  on  his  face,  he  will  worship  God  and  declare  that  He  is  present  (1 Cor.14:24-25).  Fellowship  is  to  be  found  amongst  Christians,  yes,  but  also  with  the  Father  and  the  Son,  Jesus  Christ  (1 John 1:3).  This  takes  us  out  of  ourselves  when  we  pray,  we  hear  the  Word  of  God,  and  we  sing  His  praises.  We  are  meant  to  be  glorifying  God  more  than  satisfying  our  needs.  There  is  an  ever-present  danger  that  expedience  or  the  desire  to  be  relevant  may  entice  us  to  follow  Nadab  and  Abihu  in  offering  up  profane  fire  to  the  Lord  (see  Lev.10:1-3).  The  Psalmist’s  perspective  must  be  a  constant  corrective:  ‘Not  to  us,  O  Lord,  not  to  us,  but  to  Your  name  give  glory,  for  the  sake  of  Your  steadfast  love  and  Your  faithfulness’  (Ps.115:1).

The  Church’s  second  task  is  to  edify  the  saints.  Dietrich  Bonhoeffer  declared  that  ‘The  essence  of  the  church  is  not  to  practice  theology  but  to  believe  and  obey  the  word  of  God.’  Christopher  Ash  interprets  Bonhoeffer  to  mean  that  the  Church’s  task  is  to  build  itself  up  by  the  Word  of  God.  In  Ash’s  words:  ‘We  reach  the  world  by  preaching  to  the  church.’  Certainly,  the  New  Testament  places  much  emphasis  on  the  spiritual  growth  of  those  who  are  Christians.  For  example,  in  the  epistles  at  least,  Paul  prays  more  frequently  for  the  sanctification  of  those  who  are  professing  Christians  than  he  does  for  the  conversion  of  those  who  are  not  (e.g.  Eph.1:15-23;  3:14-21;  Phil.1:3-11;  Col.1:9-12;  2 Thess.1:3).  In  keeping  with  this  approach,  Paul  was  concerned  that  all  Christians  would  see  the  progress  in  Timothy  (1 Tim.4:15).

In  Jeremiah’s  day,  God  promised  a  repentant  people:  ‘I  will  give  you  shepherds  after  My  own  heart,  who  will  feed  you  with  knowledge  and understanding’  (Jer.3:15).  Jesus   told  a  restored  Peter  that  his  task  was  to  feed  the  sheep  (John 21:15-17).  Part  of  meeting  together  is  to  stir  up  one  another  to  love  and  good  works  (Heb.10:24-25).  Christ  gives  gifts  to  His  people  in  order  ‘to  equip  the  saints  for  the  work  of  ministry,  for  building  up  the  body  of  Christ’  (Eph.4:12).

The  third  task  is  to  evangelize  the  world.  In  1839  Alexander  Duff  preached  at  the  ordination  service  of  Thomas  Smith,  who  was  leaving  for  work  in  India,  from  where  Duff  had  just  come  and  to  where  he  was  just  returning.  The  sermon  was  published  with  the  title  ‘Missions  the  Chief  End  of  the  Christian  Church’.  It  was  based  on  Psalm  67:1-2  (which  the  published  edition  mistakenly  identified  as  Psalm 47:1-2):  ‘God  be  merciful  unto  us,  and  bless  us;  and  cause  his  face  to  shine  upon  us.  That  thy  way  may  be  known  upon  earth,  thy  saving  health  among  all  nations.’  Duff’s  opening  sentence  was:  ‘The  Royal  Psalmist,  in  the  spirit  of  inspiration,  personating  the  Church  of  the  redeemed  in  every  age,  and  more  especially  under  its  last  and  most  perfect  dispensation,  here  offers  up  a  sublime  prayer  for  its  inward  prosperity,  and  outward  universal  extension.’

God  gives  us  some  flexibility  in  doing  this,  in  that  we  are  to  become  all  things  to  all  people  that  we  might  save  some  (1 Cor.9:22).  Some,  however,  have  combined  this  with  the  evangelistic  commission  to  the  point  where  the  unbelieving  world  almost  dictates  what  takes  place  in  the  church  buildings  on  Sunday.  A  better  and  more  biblical  approach  would  seem  to  be  that  the  Church  as  it  meets  ought  to  desire  three  things:  to  glorify  God,  to  build  up  Christians,  and  to  evangelize  unbelievers.  These  three  aims  need  to  be  kept  together.  As  Scripture  says  in  another  context,  a  threefold  cord  is  not  quickly  broken  (Eccles.4:12).

Are NON-denominational churches really denominations unto themselves?

Let’s start with a definition from the Oxford Dictionary:



1.     a recognized autonomous branch of the Christian Church.synonyms: religious group · sect cult · movement · body · branch · 

2.     the face value of a banknote, coin, or postage stamp: “a hundred dollars or so, in small denominations” synonyms: value · unit · size

3.     Formal:a name or designation, especially one serving to classify a set of things


1.     Are non-denominational churches autonomous? Are they recognized?

2.     They are not a bank note.

3.     Does ‘non-denominational’ classify a ‘set’ of things (churches)?

Sounds rather silly, does it not? As well it might. Nondenominational churches tend to be autonomous, but so do churches within denominations, such as some independent Baptist churches. There is also ‘brand’ recognition, as a particular ‘set’ of churches.

My friend Ed would probably laugh at that, since he wears the ‘nondenominational’ badge quite proudly. And after all, isn’t it good to take a firm stand on something? I guess that depends. Should we stand on shaky ground? To answer that let’s look at what one nondenominational churches say about itself.

There is one particular nondenominational online organization called ‘The Interactive Bible’ ( that just might be Ed’s church. The site uses ‘we’ a lot and so does Ed. Many of what is taught on site could have been written by my friend Ed.

This nondenominational church has a lot to say about itself at their ‘About Us’ page concerning their view of the Bible, way of life, doctrine, worship, organization, and how they are different than modern churches.

The last section, how they are different than modern churches, concludes with an invitation of sorts:

“You too can be just a Christian and serve God without belonging to any denomination bound by no (sic) denominational laws or obligations. If such freedom appeals to you, please visit us!”

Bad grammar aside (they should have left out “no” in front of denominational), they are offering “freedom” from human authority outside of yourself and your own interpretation of the Bible, while claiming to be a true New Testament church. I guess they don’t read the portions of the New Testament concerning church structure, organization, leadership, and things like church discipline.

What I find most interesting is all of the doctrine taught at some of their Web pages. Much is taught there, some of which will be discussed on another post or two. For now. . .

Yes, Virginia, NON-denominational churches ARE denominations unto themselves!

Why Evangelicals and Catholics Cannot be “Together” by Jordan Standridge

As the evangelical world in America seems rather excited about the Pope’s visit, I can’t help but remember how I felt when I discovered the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document (nf95i1-warrenpope-300x225ECT).

In 1995 the unthinkable happened. Well known evangelical pastors signed a document in which they joined themselves with Catholic priests and Philosophers, in an ecumenical fashion in order to promote the agreements over the disagreements that have plagued Protestants and Catholics for centuries dating back to the greats: Calvin, Luther, Zwingli and Knox. They agreed to no longer “proselytize” each other, agreeing that Catholics are indeed brothers, and sisters in Christ.

This article was successful in its endeavor. The vast majority of Christians in America do not evangelize Catholics. Someone like me who has shed many tears over the deception of the Roman Catholic Church is seen as hateful. I totally understand the desire to believe people are saved. I also desperately want Roman Catholics to go to heaven, but we can’t let our desire for people to be saved or our desire to please men, lead us to cheer them on as they run towards hell. We must love them.

When I first found out about the ECT, I was shocked. I was fresh off the boat and never in a million years did I imagine such confusion over what seemed to be such a clear issue to me and any Italian believer. Most evangelical churches in Italy, many of which we would never step foot into, recognize this truth.

I wondered why there was such confusion in America, and I concluded that it must come down to the Easy-Belivism mentality. In America people believe that all you have to say is, “Jesus come into my heart”, and you are saved, and it doesn’t matter what you actually believe. The devil loves to comes as an angel of light.  He loves to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and as Spurgeon said, he has created a masterpiece with the Roman Catholic Church. Here are some of the reasons protestants and Roman Catholics will never agree (based on the RCC’s teaching) and why ultimately a Born again Christian who attends a Roman Catholic Church must come out and join God’s true Church.


It is clear therefore that, in the supremely wise arrangement of God, sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the magisterum of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others. Working together, each in their own way, under the action of the Holy Spirit, they all contribute affectively to the salvation of souls. – Catechism of the Catholic Church 95

Picture a company with three owners. They walk into a room they all have the same power. That’s what this is like in the RCC.
And although Scripture should trump any false interpretation in the RCC, the Pope and his cardinals, as well as tradition have undermined Scripture for centuries. God has not given man the right to alter His word, The Holy Spirit is in charge of illuminating the mind of His children and cause them to understand the truth. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us clearly that scripture is all we need to live a life that glorifies our Creator.

Baptismbaptism (1)

The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude – C of the C C 1257

Baptism…makes the neophyte “a new creature” an adopted son of God – C of the C C 1265

By baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin – C of the C C 1263

The only way to heaven in the Roman Catholic Church is through Baptism. Baptism cannot save anyone, especially a newborn. A baby cannot have faith. A baby cannot confess Jesus as Lord, he cannot believe the resurrection. Instead each human being at some point in their life must repent of their sin and trust in Jesus as savior and Lord (Romans 10:9).


I wrote about this last week. In summary a system that is works-based will always minimize sin. Sin will be easily overcome and in Roman Catholicism it is overcome through confession.

Salvation is found in the Roman Catholic Church alone

OUTSIDE THE CHURCH THERE IS NO SALVATION, – …it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body: – Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation. C of the C C 846

It is in the Church that the fullness of the means of salvation has been deposited. C of the C C 824

This language holds people captive and forces people to trust in an institution rather than a savior. It brings fear in the hearts of those who question its veracity, and ultimately it causes a barrier between attenders and the hearing of the true saving gospel.

The Mass

As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which our Pasch has been sacrificed is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out. C of the C C 1364

In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. C of the C C 1367

The Bible Says that Christ Died Once and For all (1 Peter 3:18). He does not need to continue dying like the animals in the Old Testament sacrificial system. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The only reason he would need to continue dying would be if we needed our sins re-forgiven each week, or if we were trying to earn our salvation. In the Roman Catholic Church Jesus Christ is still on the cross and every week the Father crushes Him over and over again.

Eternal Life

The first commandment is also concerned with the sins against hope, namely, despair and presumption. C of the C C 2091

Presumption… hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit C of the C C 2092

Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification C of the C C 2010

Ultimately, as we see so clearly written by their own fingers, they believe that you must merit God’s forgiveness. It is not a free gift (Eph. 2:8-9). It is something that you must earn, and anyone who says they are on their way to heaven without having earned it over the course of many years, is presumptuous and disillusioned.

The Bible says in 1 John 5:13, “I have written these things so that you may know that you have eternal life”. It’s not something we must earn but it is a free gift. And we can have confidence in this life that we will be with Him the moment we die.

Our heart goes out to people stuck in this false system. Our desire is not to condemn but to bring the truth to these people. Sometimes you have to let people know they are lost before showing them how they can be found. If you wish to learn more about how to evangelize Roman Catholics here are 10 books I have benefited from to help you do just that.