Prominent pastor and author Michael Youssef issued a blistering condemnation of the entertainment-driven church, warning that the judgment of God will fall heavily upon the Church if it fails to return to His plan for discipleship.
“The Apostle Peter said that the judgment of God begins in the household of God, so we really need to start with the Church and begin to clean house,” the 71-year-old founder of Leading The Way television ministry and pastor of the 3,000-member Church of The Apostles in Atlanta, told The Christian Post.
“So-called evangelicals have departed from the biblical orthodoxy and all sorts of falsehoods have crept into the pulpits. We’ve basically decided that we're going to choose which part of the Bible we like and which part we don't like. And this is really all across the board; it’s a very sad day for the Church.”
Youssef, who has authored over 40 books and whose programs are broadcast in 26 languages worldwide, identified high-profile pastors who fail to address the reality of sin from the pulpit and instead focus on the “gospel of positivity” as particularly dangerous “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
“They do it so sweetly,” he said. “They smile as they do it and it’s scary. You see this all the time: They are so focused on being positive that they refuse to talk about sin. They say, ‘God doesn’t really care about those things.’ It’s hard to hear from the pulpit that there is such a thing as sin and God redeemed that sin on the cross, but we need to confess and repent. It’s much easier to hear, ‘God loves you the way you are and you don't have to change, you don't have to leave your lifestyle regardless of how sinful it is.
“So the younger generation is saying, ‘Hey man, I like this stuff. It caters to my fleshly desires. I'm warning the average person in the pew, particularly the younger generation, don't be misled. Don't be taken in by this sweet, smooth-talking pastors who say, ‘We can’t be absolutely sure about the biblical truth. Truth is basically relative.’”
Youssef, who served as an Episcopal priest in the 1980s, recalled how the mainline Episcopal denomination “lost the war to the secularists, to the apostates, to those who did not want to accept the claims of Christ.” In 2015, The Episcopal Church voted to formally approve same-sex marriage in the denomination.
Now, he warned, the same thing is happening in the wider evangelical church.
“I’m very concerned,” he stressed. “I’m not alone. I have so many dear friends like Dr. Albert Mohler and many others who are standing shoulder to shoulder in saying, ‘No, we've seen this scenario before, and we know it's not going to end well.'”
The Saving Christianity?: The Danger in Undermining our Faith and What You Can Do About It author told CP that the shift away from biblical truth began in the 1920s and heightened in the ’60s when church leaders sought to “make Jesus palatable to the hippie movement.”
“We said, ‘Whatever you want is fine. You don't want to go into church buildings? Fine.’ We just kept accommodating and accommodating, and every generation since has asked for more and more concessions,” he said.
The televangelist, who spent the first 18 years of his life through the '50s and '60s living in Egypt before escaping to the United States, said that the “seeker-friendly movement” that has since become prevalent in many churches has left little room for Bible-believing Christians.
“We want to build the church with sinners; we really don't want Christians to be in the church,” he said of the movement. “But the Church is supposed to be the Church of Jesus Christ, the gathering of believers. In order to make the unbelievers feel comfortable, we began to introduce a certain type of music and then began to introduce entertaining messages to help people feel good when they leave. Why would they weep over their sin and turn to the Lord in repentance? No, just make them feel good about themselves,” he said.
“It really has been a very, very subtle thing. We want people to feel good. Well, we're making people feel good all the way to Hell, sadly. It's not biblical Christianity.”
The Church needs to return to a focus on discipleship, he stressed. “Right now, we basically have an audience. We’re not making disciples of Christ — those who will study the Word of God and grow, not just in head knowledge, but to become more like Christ every day.”
“Every believer must be a disciple,” he continued. “Therefore, a church that does not disciple them is not a true church. The word ‘disciple’ basically means to be a student, to learn and study from Jesus. The amazing thing about the Word of God is that it’s been preserved for 2,000 years despite people trying desperately to burn and get rid of it. Thankfully, we have it intact. Therefore, there is no pop psychology or pat on the back that is going to make disciples; only the unadulterated Word of God can do that.”
Youssef also cautioned against the idea that tragedies like the coronavirus pandemic currently sweeping the world will spark a “revival,” emphasizing that revival will not happen unless “the people of God remove idols from their lives.”
“I’m taking the blame as much as anyone else, but we’re attached to sports and entertainment. We spend hours on entertainment and very little time in the Word of God,” he said. “Until we start removing these idols, I don't see how revival can happen.”
The pastor also advised Christians to be prepared for “hard days ahead,” suggesting that just like the early Christians were blamed for the fall of Rome, “pagans and people who hate God” will blame believers for the spread of the coronavirus.
“Already they’re asking for anybody who goes to church to be arrested. If they're doing this in the middle of our somber situation, wait until it's over. They will come in after us with cleats,” he warned. “I want to prepare the body of Christ of believers to be alert and to be aware of the fact that we are in for a very difficult time ahead.”
Youssef urged “faithful believers” to see the COVID-19 pandemic as a “warning” and “loving alarm bell from God, saying, ‘Turn to me before it’s too late.’”
“When a believer begins to get serious about their prayer life and their walk with Christ, we will see change happen,” he said. “I want believers to really get serious about this. I am pleading with believers to please, go back to the Lord now. I think God is looking for an excuse to relent. Before we see judgment, we need to get back to basics.”
“We need to not allow the Church to become worldly, but let the Church once again become the Church of Jesus Christ.”