(By John Henderson)
Matthew 7:21-23” “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” “…I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:23b).
I shared through email an article by Terry Ivy in which he discussed the failure of churches that focus largely on programs at the expense of conversions, as evangelical believers understand conversions. He was not decrying programs as such but the fact that vigorous conversions were conspicuously missing and all that was left were programs and events.
It has become a sickness of the soul of the church and these activities seem to be all they have left that makes them think of real church. It is their substitution for commitment to the call of Jesus to go into the world and win souls, then nourish them in the things of Christ. It is their abandonment of the New Testament Church principle of adding to the church daily such as will be saved.
In fact, when they say they want to return to the practices of the early church that is not the early church they mean. They never go back past AD 200, but rather dawdle about in the budding heresies of the centuries after that, seeking to resurrect those old errors, many of which even the modern Catholic Church is abandoning. They eagerly run after their accommodating teachers, “having itching ears,” and miss the call of God altogether.
They must somehow know that deep inside, but choose rather to close the eyes and ears of their spiritual understanding against the Spirit’s warnings and arrive at a place where they actually think they are serving Christ. Once fully self-deceived, they move forward in haughty self-reliance all the way to the Judgment Bar of Christ. Even then, they still think they have served the Lord until the Lord Himself has to tell them differently. What an irreversible tragedy!
If you read the entire account in Matthew, you will see there were two groups. One group, the saved, was so focused on loving the Lord that they completely overlooked the value of their service to Him. The lost group was so focused on their “service” to Him that they completely overlooked loving Him. Both groups called Him Lord, but He was Lord only of those who had “lost” themselves only to find it again in Him. The other group only saw themselves as pushing self to the front for Him to notice and lost it all in the end.
One of my active email recipients on the west coast, a Nazarene who often responds in significant ways, wrote me the following about the Terry Ivy blog:
“Again, these ‘things’ in themselves are not wrong or even sin. But on the other hand, anything that pre-empts, distracts, plays on one’s feelings, and especially ‘mixes in’ with the Gospel needs to be evaluated…Believers continually seem to be coming up with all kinds of ways and means to entertain….instead of coming up with prayer meetings and focusing all the messages in the church on the saving grace and the price Christ paid for me on the cross. Anything at all in life and especially in the church can become a stumbling block, discount, discredit and demean the Gospel – therefore; it should compel us to judge all in light of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. The cross is no longer held in high esteem when all these ‘things’ come into the church. Anytime these venues are used to ‘draw’ people, I always notice that the simple clear message of the Gospel which compels sinners to come to the cross, becomes diluted and often not even mentioned.
That same person then followed with a response to my question that has become the topic of this article:
“Yes, very possibly this could pertain to the verse, ‘Lord, did we not do many wonderful things in your name?’ but…unfortunately due to the fact that the doors have been opened to the enemy – this verse is lost on those being entertained.”
Another Nazarene correspondent in the eastern U.S., responding to the same Ivy article, sent me this message:
“I believe this was also true in the (earlier) days (my childhood years) in the COTN. There was spirited singing, and solid preaching, and that was about it. We went out ‘calling’ and witnessing – and that’s what brought people in. Strong preaching, always ending in an either/or – heaven or hell - confrontation, resulted in real conversions at the altar (mourner’s bench) – and many times it took more than the 2 or 3 minutes it takes to pray the ‘sinner’s prayer’. And the church grew.”
I am not a pessimist. Although I know there is to be a great falling away just prior to Christ’s Second Coming and that many will be led astray, I also believe that Jesus will not be coming for a Church hunkering down from the world’s attacks. He will be coming for a busy Church, a Church that is attending to its mission while keeping an eye on the sky.
Luke 12:37-38: “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.”
 Terry Ivy. ReThinking Church, Part 5 – Biblical Conversions (http://blogs.christianpost.com/guest-views/rethinking-church-part-5-biblical-conversions-9823/).
 Having an itching in regard to hearing things that glut their own carnal desires “because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things” (from 2 Timothy 4:3, NET). For this reason, they will not tolerate sound doctrine.
 COTN is a common abbreviation for Church of the Nazarene