Where the Evangelical Church Went Wrong (part 1)

The evangelical church has lost its way in the last 25 years. It began in the mid-50s when the Prosperity Gospel and Word of Faith movement seeped into its midst; I believe this was the forerunner of what we are currently seeing. The current state of evangelicalism is one of selfishness, callousness, judgmentalism, condemnation of others, and outright rebellion against the teachings of scripture. What is happening now in these churches is driving people away from fellowship and even faith as they decide if God supports these kinds of actions, attitudes, and ideals, they don’t want anything to do with Him or those who call themselves His people.

I’ve been involved in church since I was six weeks old. I had what evangelical Christians call a conversion experience in 1974 when I was 14 years old. I was baptized in the Holy Spirit less than six weeks later. My faith gave me the strength to endure an abusive childhood, being molested by my stepfather, and a violent first marriage. It helped me through 15 years as a single mother. Prayer, attending church regularly, and some bending hours in the Bible every week was the cornerstone of my life for over 30 years. So, what happened?

In the mid-to-late 90s, I started realizing the magnitude of the divide between people with power in the evangelical church and those who supported them. Instead of being a servant, the pastor was seen as the ultimate authority. If you attended Brother So-and-So’s church, you’d better not ever be heard speaking out against anything he said or you would face admonishment, correction, or discipline. They rationalize this by misquoting Psalm 105:15, which tells us not to touch God’s anointed. Taken in context, this verse refers to the entire body of believers, not just pastors and their cohorts. Unfortunately, in the evangelical church this has led to an attitude that you cannot question leadership, prophets, or anyone in a position of authority without risking the wrath of God. This attitude fails to recognize that we are all are sinners, prone to mistakes and deliberate errors, and we are not above correction regardless of where we are in the hierarchy of the church:

In addition, the undercurrent of the Prosperity Gospel and Word of Faith movement became more prominent as time progressed. What began with the minor distortion of Luke 6:38 became a full-fledged perversion as things progressed from God blessing you because He’s good and wants to bless you to God blessing you because He’s obligated to do so based on how much money you put in the offering or what ministry support. People who embrace this false doctrine forget there are many passages in the Bible talking about our obligation to minister to the poor, take care of widows and orphans, and to not treat the rich as if they are better than the poor — because wherever we are, it’s in God’s will for us to be there. I actually heard several pastors over the years tell you if you’re poor, it’s because you’re not giving enough money to the church. If you’re sick, it’s because you don’t have enough faith. If your loved one dies, either they weren’t faithful enough, or you neglected to do something right. The gospel as they believe it has become one of works, not faith. It is no longer the good news for all people, but a transactional relationship, kind of like putting quarters in a vending machine and getting a bag of chips. That’s not how God works.

Another thing I find concerning is their lack of empathy/sympathy, compassion, and caring for those who are struggling. Their token answer for just about any situation has become, “Place it at the foot of the cross and walk away.” They seem unaware, either deliberately or otherwise, not everything can be resolved in that way. The church should be a resource for the homeless, the hungry, abused, neglected, lonely, and struggling. It should be actively working to help these people is a way of showing the love of Jesus to a lost and dying world, but they seem to have forgotten this mandate in favor of promoting their twisted version of the good news.

I specifically remember a certain pastor saying his goal was to have his parking lot full of luxury cars, not clunkers. My question is this: if, as it says in Luke 5:31, “…it is not the healthy who need doctors, but the sick,” why do they only want rich people in their churches? That’s like sending healthy people to the hospital and telling sick people to stay home. If we don’t welcome and embrace the struggling to show them the love and hope found in our faith, what makes it any better than a country club or bar? If the offering on Sunday doesn’t go to bless the poor, but instead lines the pastor’s pocket or helps the church build a new multi-million-dollar edifice for their rich parishioners, what good does that do the community at large? How does it fulfill the great commission? What is the good news if it’s not the message that Jesus can meet you wherever you are and help you regardless of your circumstances? Where is the hope in that kind of gospel?

As it embraced the Prosperity Gospel, the Word of Faith movement, and now Dominionism and the New Apostolic Reformation, the evangelical church has become nothing more than a members-only club where the rich gain more wealth and the poor stay that way. They can never get ahead because they’re being encouraged to give every penny to people who don’t need the money or the help. Offerings aren’t being put into meeting the needs of the suffering, but instead going to increase the prosperity and elitism of those in power within evangelicalism. It is, in a way, a form of hypocrisy, because it violates the principles of compassion, giving, sacrifice, service, and looking to God to provide us with what we need instead of making a list of what we want and asking God to give it to us. To suggest we can demand something from God because we tithe and give offerings is heretical at best. Judging people because of what they have instead of loving them because God created us all is no better than what the world does. How are we showing our love for our neighbor by putting our own wants before their needs? How many of these pastors are taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars monthly but refusing to help their own members in need of assistance with rent, groceries, or medical bills? Requiring hungry people to sit through a two-hour church service in order to get groceries to feed their family isn’t compassionate or charitable. Telling people who are financially struggling they need to get another job instead of helping them with their rent doesn’t show the love of God.

The evangelical church is sick. A cancer has invaded part of the body of Christ, and it needs to be excised. Unless they are willing to repent and change their ways, there is no hope for restoration or redemption. I hate to say that, because I used to be one of them and it was an essential part of my life for many years, but there it is. I no longer identify as evangelical because I cannot support what they believe, how they act, or where they’re headed. It’s sad, because they have the potential to be a force for good in the world.

Solitary

She’s alone now.
Only memories and ashes
remind her of the one
who held her heart.

There are no arms to embrace her
in the long, dark night;
no soft breathing from
the pillow next to hers;
no warmth to ease the chill
in the bed they used to share
as temperatures fall
and winter approaches;
there is only
silence and longing.
Some days she feels
a wave of overwhelming grief
she can’t control.

There are moments when
she wonders
if the pain of loss
was worth their time together,
if it would have been easier
to never have met him,
loved him,
shared his life…

Then, in her mind’s eye,
she sees his smile
and it reminds her
of the love they shared;
the touch of his hand,
the feel of his skin against hers,
the sound of his voice,
how he said her name
like nobody else could…,

And she knows
It was worth it all.
©pfreitag2021

Pain Will Not Win

you are my constant companion
with me each moment of every day
never ceasing to remind me
of the fragility and the preciousness of life

the pain you have given me
drives me to cherish the smallest things
the times with my loved ones
now all too infrequent 
touching my life in a deeper way
than ever before

I have questioned myself
my motives and my actions
trying to discover
the root, the cause, the reason
only to find you are
as random as the wind
striking whom you will
where you will
when you choose

there is no preventative measure
I could have taken
there is no cure in the annals of medicine
only a hope for relief
from the constant pain I live in
a hope that drives me
to try yet one more medication
one more treatment

to spite you
I will not give into depression
I will not let your presence
steal from me who I am
instead, I will make the most
of each second I've been given
and in the hard times
I will cling to that which is good

you will not win
you will not take my life
you may grab at my livelihood
my possessions, my ability
but who I am
will always shine through
the pain

torture me if you must 
leave me writhing in agony
crying out for relief
still my spirit will be there fighting you
I will fight you with my last breath

I will not give in to you.

©2008



Forgiveness isn’t optional.

I threw away most of the notes I took during Bible College, but this teaching hit home for me as a survivor of childhood and domestic assault. I discovered a long time ago that forgiveness ties us to our offenders and that letting go of our pre-conceived right to resent them holds us back while they go on their way. Forgiveness is for us, not them. It frees us of the hold they have on our hearts, our innocence, and our growth.

Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person’s sin. Forgiveness is costly; we pay the price of the evil we forgive. Yet we’re going to live with these consequences whether we want to or not. Our only choice is whether we will do so in the bitterness of unforgiveness or the freedom of forgiveness.

An unforgiving spirit destroys respect.

We cannot forgive while we’re hanging on to our rights and our sense of injury. We cannot forgive without consenting to suffer the loss ourselves.

See yourself standing in a circle which is called the will of God. Nothing therefore can touch you from outside the circle, unless it has first penetrated that circle. The thing in question may be hurtful, unfair, and callous, but no matter how it originated, by the time it has reached you it has passed through the circle of the will of God; it has become God’s will for you; it has been permitted for wise and good purposes of His own. Therefore, by resenting and refusing it, you are in reality rebelling against God and His will.

In forgiveness, God is not asking us to do anything which He has not done for us to an infinitely greater degree.

What then is forgiveness? It is a miracle of grace whereby the offense no longer separates. The offense is real, and the hurt is real, but forgiveness means that this real and horrible offense shall not separate us. Forgiveness means that the power of love that holds us together is greater than the power of the offense that separates us. That is forgiveness. In forgiveness we are releasing our offenders so that they are no longer bound to us. In a very real sense, we are freeing them to receive God’s grace.

There is no torment like the inner torment of an unforgiving spirit. It refuses to be soothed; it refuses to be healed; it refuses to forget.

When tragedy comes into your life, allow yourself to grieve. It is a God-given source of healing. Refusing to grieve can harden the heart.

Embrace the hurts of life. God is in them. Allow His purposes to triumph.

Forgiveness is crucial. Not only should it be felt, but it needs to be expressed. Without it, we cannot move on. If we desire to grow, mature, and become more like God, we need to let go of the hurts and offenses that shaped us and let God do His work in our lives.

It is time.

It is time.
Time to deal with
the pain,
the past,
and let it go.
Forgiveness.
Rejection
is no longer
a fear.
Your confidence
is in your God,
not in man.
His acceptance
is all you need.
It will
quell
those voices
from the past,
those that say
“You are not
worthy.
You do not
deserve this.”

See, you
are His child.
And you deserve
what He says
you deserve.
And that
is good.
Peace.
Joy.
Hope.

But God, don’t You see me?

Yes, child,
I see you.
But not as
you see yourself.
I look at you
through
eyes of
mercy
love
compassion
and forgiveness.

You need to
forgive
yourself.

For what?

For falling short
of your own
expectations.
For failing
in what
you thought
you should
do or be.
See, My plans for you
are not what
you would choose.

What a shock. I thought I had that one figured out. After all, look where I am and how I’m living.

But
that
is
coming
to an end.

Let
Me
Work.

Yield to Me.
Be sensitive
and willing.

Oh, what I have for you, My child! Let Me work it in you. Stop the fighting. Let go of your pride and fear and let Me work. For I am not some vengeful master, but a loving Father. I desire good for you if you will accept it. I don’t wait for you to stumble so I can whack you. I am not your dad – I am your Father.
©1-29-1997

make a choice

they said it was right
i knew it was wrong
they told me to rethink
it didn’t change my mind

they made me choose between
community and loneliness
feeling part of a family and
standing on my own

i couldn’t stay and
let it erase who i was
no matter how painful
the decision proved to be

so I walked away
with my head held high
my friends left in the mire
of conformity and error

but i can’t be responsible
for who they choose to be
when my own identity is
in danger of disappearing

i won’t lie and say I don’t miss them
but I never really
fit into their crowd
always just on the edge of belonging

the truth is, though,
i’m better off living in the light
seeing the truth and living in it
instead of following the crowd

i’ve always been a loner
so readjusting was easier
than if I needed people to feel
whole or valuable

speaking the truth can
carry a hefty price
but i counted the cost
and paid the price

integrity instead of conformity
compassion instead of condemnation
love instead of judgment
empathy instead of scorn

when i stand before God
and answer for how i lived my life
i want Him to see my heart and know
i honored what He called me to do
more than what people thought of me
because that matters more
than all the money or power
in the world

9-10-2020
©plfreitag

Faux-vangelicalism and the modern mega-church

The current faux-vangelical movement posing as Christianity will use you up and spit you out on the other side like a chewed up peanut shell unless you happen to be related to the leadership in the particular cell to which you belong. I am still recovering from how I was treated.

My kids and I were active in choir, youth group, nursery, ushering, and other areas of service. However, since I was a fat single mom struggling to make ends meet, I was overlooked for many opportunities because I didn’t fit the image they wanted to project.

We were there every time the doors opened. We cleaned, did dishes, taught Sunday School, were involved in prayer groups, attended small group meetings, and helped any way we could. Even after years of serving, there was still a divide between the chosen few and the rest of us.

I was good enough to be on the worship team, but not to do special music, because I hadn’t been hand-picked by the pastor. If he spoke about someone needing help, people fell all over themselves to volunteer while others struggled to survive or feed their kids.

My daughter made friends with the pastor’s son and one Sunday I was approached by the daughter of one of the associate pastors, who informed me I needed to tell her to stay away from him. We were from the wrong side of the tracks because her dad wasn’t around.

I went through a crisis of faith and missed some services. I got a personal visit from a friend who told me an associate pastor wanted me to call her – she couldn’t pick up the phone & do it herself. They kicked my kids out of choir. Nobody checked on us. We were on our own.

They brag about how many people they feed on Sunday (you have to sit through a 4 hour service with grumbling tummies first) and then they drive home in their luxury cars to their multi-million dollar mansions where they’re unreachable by common people.

One person washes the pastor’s car & fills it with gas, takes his clothes to the dry cleaner & picks them up, and chauffeurs him to the airport for his first class flights. Someone else mows the yard (26 acres) and takes care of the animals. Their own family waits at home.

They raffle off Hummers and luxury cars while church members can’t pay their rent or clothe their kids. They accept donations from businesses and then brag about giving those items away as “gifts from the ministry” after keeping what they want.

If you’re not part of the inner circle, you can’t access the pastors. They have bodyguards and secretaries and people whose job it is to keep you away from them. These people who claim to operate under the power of God whine about being drained by the needy.

Jesse Duplantis “needed” a second private jet. Why? 1. Flying commercial was too exhausting because he had to sit near people with needs. (How did Jesus ever get anything done without a Gulfstream?) 2. To get up in the sky, closer to God. (What about omnipresence?)

They get up on the platform for the 1-hour offering teaching on Sunday morning and brag about giving Brother So-&-So a new Rolex, luxury car, or bespoke suit. How much does $5K to a fellow grifter really impact someone living in a $2M mansion? Seriously?

They ask us to give “sacrificially.” This means rent money. Your car payment. Your utility bill. If God doesn’t come through to replace it, you didn’t put enough faith behind your gift. In the meantime, they’re buying another vacation condo in some exotic locale.

Mom and Dad paying for your Bible College tuition? Young and attractive? Here, let us give you a scholarship for a full ride. If you’re a struggling single parent scraping together enough to afford the monthly tuition payment, tough luck. You should have planned better.

Bible? What Bible? Use your cell phone, and text, tweet, or post on FB between scriptures. They may say Bible College students can’t do that, but nobody’s enforcing it. Get pregnant from hooking up with another student in spite of the rules? Time for a quickie wedding!

It all looks good on the outside…fancy buildings, well-dressed staff, lights and sound and smoke during worship…but they’re rotten to the core. It’s all about money. It’s not about God, the Bible, living right, or showing the love of Jesus to others. It’s a game.

Like the 45th President, these charlatans have stopped pretending to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” as directed in Micah 6:8. Money is now their god, and Jesus sits in the back row when He’s allowed in the building.

God sits in the heavens and weeps over how far the modern evangelical church has fallen, supporting a treasonous, lying, hate-spewing fear-monger whose one desire is power and more power. Those who are called to shepherd believers will be held accountable for their betrayal.

Travels

I’ve done a bit of traveling in the last few years. Here are photos (in almost chronological order) of me in Sedona, AZ; South Rim of the Grand Canyon, AZ; White Sands National Park, NM; Big Bend National Park, TX; Arches National Park, UT; Hoover Dam, NV; Petrified Forest National Park, AZ; Multnomah Falls, OR; and Castillo de San Marcos National Park, FL.

I’d love to do more traveling as time allows, once the pandemic is under control. In the meantime, I’m working on writing a book based on my testimony in the hopes of inspiring other survivors of childhood and domestic assault.

The New Apostolic Reformation and Covid-19

The New Apostolic Reformation, which supported the 45th president, is a cult with its roots in the Prosperity Gospel/Word of Faith movement that began in the 1950s. As a defector, I’d like to help explain where these “Christians” stand on the Covid-19 crisis.

Brainwashing takes place over time, beginning with slightly twisted truths that appeal to potential cult members. The more you participate, and the deeper into the cult you go, the more distorted and perverted the truth becomes. Many people never realize what’s happening. “Jesus wants you to be well” devolves over time into “If you have enough faith, you won’t get sick.” If you get prayer and you’re not healed, the blame is on you. If you’re struggling financially, you haven’t given enough money to the church. This is not scriptural. By the time you get this far, if you hang around, the way you think has already been changed. When they tell you to call in sick so you can get to their revival meetings, it’s no big deal. Skip your mortgage payment to donate more to the church? That’s faith to them.

This is when the real garbage starts being shoveled into your brain. They are teaching that Christians in America are being oppressed & persecuted, and that it’s time for them to take the country back. In fact, they say it is their God-given mandate to do so. They teach that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous, that *they* are righteous, and anyone who’s not Christian is wicked, so it is not only their privilege but their responsibility to take money away from those they deem to be ungodly. Many of their Bible schools are also training people to enter and be extremely active in politics, including running for positions in government from local bodies all the way up the ladder. Their goal is a theocracy with no tolerance for anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs.

Because these organizations initially appeal to people desperate for hope and help, the indoctrination process is pretty easy. Once they have their claws in you, it’s hard to escape. Isolation, loss of community, no support system, and even shunning are commonplace. The more time you spend around it, the more “normal” it becomes. You function as part of the group because failing to do so has negative consequences. Eventually, you stop questioning even the most outrageous claims made by the leaders and accept them as truth. When they hand you that glass of Kool-Aid, the one that convinces you it’s okay to kill people, exercise racism, and embrace ideals violating every sense of morality you’ve ever learned, you do it because you’ve been taught to obey without question.

The New Apostolic Reformation movement is no less dangerous than radical Islam. Ardent believers are fully prepared to die for what they believe in if that’s what the ringleaders ask them to do. They also believe they are immune to the coronavirus because it is a punishment for unrighteous living, and will be exacted only on those whose faith is not strong enough to protect them. They believe the “righteous” will be the only ones left standing when this is all said and done, and they are part of that group.

I spent 45 years with these people in one place or another and have watched in dismay as they went from Christianity (with a twist) to a cult. They no longer respect the rights of others to believe what they want to believe. They are prepared to do whatever it takes to fulfill their mandate, using force if necessary. Many churches are now encouraging their members to arm themselves and get CCW permits. Don’t discount this. Don’t blow it off. In November, if, God willing, 45 is voted out of office, there could be riots in the streets and widespread violence — perpetuated by these so-called “believers.” I’ve already heard the rumblings. I may be out of their churches, but I’m not out of the loop.

In Search of Worship

I have been searching for a new church since I moved back to this area a year ago. I have had to leave several services early because the music was so loud it gave me a migraine. Is this really worship, or is it a concert? Does it enable the average church member or visitor to set aside the cares of the world and focus on God, or is it meant to entertain? Do we need a darkened auditorium, spotlights, and fog machines to proclaim the majesty of Almighty God? What I see from my seat in these environments is less and less participation, especially when the “worship team” chooses songs with too many words or a melody line outside the range of most average singers. It is becoming a spectator sport instead of a way of coming together as believers to give reverence and awe to the God who gives us hope in a lost and dying world.

I know this will age me, but I was taught that praise and worship served a purpose, and that was to bring us into the throne room of God and prepare us to hear what God wanted to say to us. It was a way of setting aside the worries and concerns of daily life, unifying us as a people, and focusing on the One who could give us hope when all hope was lost. It was, at times, a sacrifice, especially when we were struggling or hurting or angry. It was a way of declaring that even in the midst of our trials and tribulations, God was still on the throne, and we were going to set aside this time to focus on Him instead of ourselves.

Our worship team was seen not only as a vital part of the ministry of the church, but also as people who set an example for young believers and newcomers. We dressed appropriately, wearing modest clothes so as not to draw the eye of the weak to areas they shouldn’t be looking at. We were not seen as the focal point, but rather as vessels. Our goal was leading the church into the presence of God. Being on the worship team was a privilege and a responsibility.

I fear that in the search for contemporary relevance and relatability, and in an attempt to get more backsides in the seats, we have lost sight of our vision. We have watered down the truth of the Gospel to pacify people who want to come to church, but don’t want to change. They want to feel good about what God has done for them, but they don’t really want to do anything for God. They don’t want to alter their lifestyles, give up their sinful behavior, or make any significant modifications to their lives.

We have taken the phrase “Come as you are” and forgotten that an intense, sincere relationship with God will not leave you where you were when you began. Failing to challenge believers to become more holy, to be in the world but not of it, and to seek to become more Christ-like is falling far short of the mark of excellence we are called to as Christians. We should be different. We should be peculiar, odd, & seen as out of place on this planet where sin, hate, strife, and division are spiraling out of control. We should be a light in the darkness.

It is simply not enough to come to church on Sunday, sing three songs from the current CCM radio station playlist, listen to a feel-good sermon, and walk back out the doors unchallenged and unchanged. That is not worship…. It is entertainment.