Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Jeannette Haley

     It is no secret that people (and animals as well) can live and continue to function in spite of the loss of limbs. Their capacities in some areas may be greatly curtailed, or even impossible to perform, but they are still thinking, feeling and functioning individuals (or functioning animals, whichever the case may be). The one thing, however, that any living person or creature cannot survive without is their head. I believe this is true of nations as well, including America.

       As I write this, my gut is telling me that we are, as a nation, a ship adrift, and sinking fast, on a stormy sea, without a captain, crew or rudder. Oh, there may be a suited man by the name of Barack Hussein Obama (who has admitted that he is a Muslim) living in the White House, and there may be a gang of thugs in control of Congress, but most of it resembles a body trying to function without a head. There may be a visible, physical, pseudo “head,” but there is no true rational, intelligent leadership. All it amounts to is a bunch of confusion, idiocy, anger, hatred, foolishness, greed, wickedness and delusion. The whole terrifying mess is ungodly, immoral and pathetic. The results will assuredly be disastrous and deadly to both individuals and the nation as a whole. The truth is, unless God steps on the scene in a major way to save us from the dark, dangerous, demonic powers behind the visible head, this ship is going down. History gives ample proof of this very scenario.

       The question is why would God step in to save a nation that has come to despise its heritage, and “sold” its birthright for a mess of pottage called the American Dream? Why would a holy God come to the rescue of a nation whose puppet leaders have condemned Israel and sided with her enemies, thus putting a curse on not only themselves, but also the entire nation? Furthermore, why would God come to the rescue of an apostate church that excuses and embraces every form of vileness the world has to offer? A. W. Tozer said, “Religion today is not transforming people; rather it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society; it is descending to society’s own level, and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smilingly accepting its surrender.”

       Thankfully, many Sleepy Hollow Americans are waking up. Nevertheless, the horrors of our “headless horseman” leader are increasing by the hour. We know from the famous fable, The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow, that one of the leading characters, Ichabod Crane, fled in terror for his life whenever the headless horseman rode his way. The truth is, the power behind both the headless horseman and the headless, power-grabbing, un-American empty suit in the Oval Office is Satan himself: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” Ephesians 6:12. In light of this fact, what are we, as Christians, to do? The next verse tells us, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Undoubtedly, we are living in the time specified as “the evil day.”

       While Satan may masquerade as a type of headless horseman who has a designated time in which to terrorize the earth, we know that our God is the Head over all creation. Ephesians 1:22 assures us, “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church.” In Ephesians 4:15 we read, “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” Again in Ephesians 5:23 we read that “Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.”

While these verses reassure us that Jesus is the head of His Body, the Church, there is a very real danger of interpreting this to mean that every church building, or denomination, with a “Christian” sign over the door guarantees that Christ is its head. Any person who makes such an assumption may be inadvertently moving into the dark paths of a spiritual Sleepy Hollow. Not all churches truly have Christ as their head. You could say that they are “headless churches” where Jesus is concerned, because the leadership that they do have is of another spirit, presenting another Christ and another gospel.

       Unfortunately, when undiscerning people sit in a spiritual “Sleepy Hollow” church, they become indoctrinated rather than discipled. Such indoctrination can be very religious; or, it may be humanistic with a thin veneer of religion. Regardless of the nature, structure and traditional stance of any given church, if Jesus is not the head, in every way and at all times, it is a headless entity that is neither edifying to people, nor glorifying to God. It becomes nothing more than a social club at best, or a cult at worst.

       “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” Psalm 127:1. How much church building is done in vain because it is done for the glory of man, and not God? This verse reminds us of Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 16:18, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock [‘Christ, the Son of the living God’] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Thus, we can determine that if Jesus is not the builder of a particular church, then it does not belong to Him and it will not be able to stand against the “gates of hell.” That is not to say that it may not succeed financially, or grow physically, but the spiritual impact it makes in the world for Christ will be nil, its fruits will be fleshly, and its works and activities will make no eternal difference. Hell will overcome it because it will lack the authority and power that only Christ can give to His true Church that He loves and for which He gave Himself. (See Ephesians 5:25b).

       How can a person determine if a particular church truly has Christ as its head? After all, no group of believers is perfect since we are all still in our flesh, and very human. First, the Holy Bible tells us all we need to know about the true Church; thus you have an instruction book, guide book, and test book at your fingertips. Here are a few guidelines that may be useful to hungry and thirsty seekers, beginning with the leadership: Ask yourself who or what is consistently exalted in the church. Is Jesus Christ lifted up in every sermon with such authority, power and anointing that people are drawn to Him? On the other hand, are the messages weak, entertaining, flattering, man or church centered, and spiritually meaningless? Are the church and its particular doctrine, the pastor, the church programs and schedule of events, and other people consistently exalted? Is the Word of God preached with such power and authority that people are pricked in their consciences and come to true repentance, or is the Gospel, the reality of sin, death, hell and holy living watered down, or ignored altogether? Is the leadership committed to the care of the sheep through prayer, feeding them the unadulterated Word of God, ministering to each of them personally (regardless to their age, gender or station in life) and protecting them against wolves, hirelings, and the devil? Are those in leadership seasoned (not novices) in the ministry, saturated with the Word of God, filled with the Spirit and truth, with no personal agendas except to be broken and poured out for Jesus? Are those who lead personally holy, humble, and self-sacrificing men and women of God, who obey the Word, pray, and hold themselves accountable to the commandments of Christ, and who do not feel above the people in any way? Are the leaders more ready to give than to receive money and of such high moral fiber that they, as good shepherds, are willing lay down their lives for the sheep? Are souls held in higher esteem than the church, its social programs, church building projects, and church-centered events? Does the leadership shun political correctness, personal popularity, fame and fortune or any other thing that would compromise or bring a reproach on the Gospel? Does the pastor and others try to control or bring people into bondage in any way? Are the sheep fed of the Bread from Heaven and the Living Water, or are they fed a steady diet of legalism, humanistic psychology, man’s vain philosophies, or the latest fiction book? Finally, is the worship Christ-centered, holy, pure, God honoring, and doctrinally true, or is it carnal, man-centered, hypnotic, pagan, and offensive?

       Concerning the congregation: Are people coming to repentance and true salvation, or are people merely converted to an ideology or the leader’s personal beliefs, agendas and goals? Are all the people, from the youngest to the oldest faithfully discipled and equipped for ministry so that they are able to share the life of Christ with others in word, deed and example? Are the people deeply committed to prayer and intercession for the lost, for Israel, for missions, for needs in the Body, America and other pressing issues? Do the people truly love Jesus above all else so that He is the center focus of their conversations and lives? Are the people filled with unfeigned love, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, virtue, hope, and joy in Christ? Do the people practice in their daily lives what they profess to believe in practical and sacrificial ways? Are the people hungry and thirsty for more of the Living Water, and genuine in their desire to see souls saved? Are they humble and holy, submitting to one another in love, and selfless in their giving and service to others? Do the people know how to enter into worship with all their hearts, not stepping over into vain repetitions and fleshly excesses? Truly, it could be said that the Head of such a body of believers is Christ.

       The tragedy is, most “Sleepy Hollow” church leaders today resemble the headless horseman, galloping through the night, with no solution to the plight of lost, wounded, hurting people because Christ is not the head. If I had the power to travel throughout the land changing church reader boards (and the signs hanging above their doors), here is what most would say. “Welcome to the headless church of Sleepy Hollow, the home of Ichabod. Here the sermons and teachings are hollow, the music loud, long and hollow, prayer is hollow, the countenances of the people hollow, their heads and hearts hollow, and their works hollow. This is where darkness reigns because of sin, transgression, iniquity and unbelief. Take note: You and your children enter at your own risk.”

       Who is your head?