The Great Setup

Posted: Sep 22, 2023

It began in the 1970’s with the seeker-friendly movement. Hard topics like sin, hell, the judgement seat of Christ, spiritual warfare, and sexual issues were a turnoff to the unchurched, so they were removed or blunted. Make the music upbeat, and so loud you can’t hear your neighbor sing, not unlike what would be encountered at a rock concert. Don’t turn people off. Comfort is king.

In the decades to follow, the culture was saturated with pornography and promiscuity. These issues, which would have been rejected and railed against from most pulpits in the past, were largely ignored, providing an unhindered path to runaway growth. Porn went mainstream, doing upwards of 100 billion dollars a year globally in annual sales. Every age group was targeted, from five to 80.

The entertainment industry exploded with new media, product offerings, and channels. Movies and sports can be watched on demand, anywhere. The conversion to an entertainment-driven culture was successful, with the average American consuming thousands of hours of content annually.

Prayer meetings, once a weekly staple of the church, fell off the grid.  “Devoted to teaching, fellowship, and prayer” (Acts 2:42) became a “worship band and an easy message.”

As the entertainment culture took hold, isolation became an epidemic. People became increasingly isolated, distracted, and addicted to pornography and entertainment, or other forms of counterfeit comfort. The waistlines of Americans expanded. Apathy set in.

Quietly, the occult and witchcraft were worked into the entertainment industry and the culture at large until it went mainstream. The Harry Potter films, which include true-to-life Satanic rituals and were a doorway for the occult, were watched by many professing Christians. In 20 years, the US went from 8,000 to more than 1.5 million witches. Many Christians watched movies and programs with demonic themes and satanic rituals, foolishly thinking they would have no affect on their spiritual life. The occult was marketed to a generation of youth that were rapidly becoming disenfranchised with a church that often resembled another entertainment option.

From the 1990’s, youth began leaving the church en masse, with surveys showing that 75% walked away by their early twenties.

The seeds of division and strife were planted everywhere, in politics, religion, education and movies, many which portrayed rebellion and anarchy in a positive light.

As evil gained a tighter grip on society, violence exploded. Mass shootings, once a rare event, became commonplace events, now averaging close to two a day in the US.

With comfort and entertainment set firmly in church culture, most churches didn’t touch any of these issues. Why should they? Financial prosperity, their buildings and high-dollar audio systems provided the illusion that God was blessing them. Why upset people with talk of negative things? “Positive and encouraging” became the way to church growth. Somehow the fact that Jesus warned about hell some 60 times in the gospels eluded them, or that sex was everywhere in Scripture, along with those stern warnings that the “sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Or that Peter didn’t say a word about the love of God once in his first message where 3,000 came to Christ (he told them twice that “you crucified Christ”.)

Once The Great Setup was complete, Satan launched a full-scale assault.

In 2020, the demonic hordes began their invasion with Covid, a spiritual nuclear bomb that produced shockwaves of fear, anxiety, and division everywhere. The comfort and entertainment driven church was unequipped and unprepared to deal with spiritual warfare at that level, and the church was routed. Forced isolation exposed the massive fault-lines of isolation in church culture, with most Christians having little to no true connection with others. Pornography, which thrives in isolation, exploded by 25% worldwide overnight. Many suddenly walked away from the faith, even to the point of proclaiming it publicly. One former believer offered an online course on how to deconstruct the faith, in effect, charging people to go to hell.

“We want to build the church with sinners; we really don’t want Christians to be in the church, 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. We want people to feel good. Well, we’re making people feel good all the way to Hell, sadly. It’s not biblical Christianity.”
Michael Youssef, April 2020

“I am seeing so many people, friends of mine who were in ministry, who are just saying they don’t believe, or they’re walking away, and I just think that’s crazy. We’re seeing people that we look up to, leaders fall. We’re seeing the world look at evangelical Christianity as an absolute joke right now. Every day you can just jump on Instagram…and someone is saying, ‘I’m not a Christian anymore.”
Francis Chan, May 2021

The seeds of division and strife now yielded their fruit with devastating results. Words such as “vaccine” or “mask” sparked flashpoints of anger in Christians and non-Christians alike. Churches fractured and split. Racial tensions were inflamed. People still drive around with bumper stickers on their cars cursing government leaders. The federal government was breached on January 6, 2021, showing how deeply the US is divided in living color.

The demonic realm went from targeted stealth attacks to all-out war. The occult was marketed more openly than ever before, especially to youth, who continued to walk away from the church in droves. A spirit of desolation attacked many believers with a dark cloud of doubt and confusion in an effort to deceive them into walking away from God. Russia attacked the Ukraine, the Afghanistan pullout was a tragedy, natural disasters are commonplace (floods, hurricanes, tornadoes), devastating fires have taken lives and destroyed property, and more. We find ourselves in a dangerous time, with evil on rampage.

Yet, in spite of the raging spiritual battle and the rapid escalation of spiritual casualties, with many falling away from the faith, many churches have continued on their path of keeping their messages positive and encouraging, with little emphasis on prayer, equipping their people, or offering help in the areas they’re in bondage to.

So what do we do?

“…while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:18

We begin by changing our perspective on the Christian life. We are at war. Church isn’t about learning Bible verses and being a really nice person who is no threat to the gates of hell. We must equip and challenge our people to become spiritual warriors, forsake or at least greatly reduce the time wasted in entertainment, and make prayer a high priority. Our relationship with God must be the highest priority in our life, which means hours in prayer. No matter what your spouse, friends, or family do, stay close to God. There are no guarantees that your family members or friends will choose to walk with God. Remember that He is the source of your life, not people.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving”
Colossians 2:4

Every church should fire up their prayer meetings, 7 days a week, even if only a few people show up.

The sins people are in bondage to must be brought to the light, no holds barred. Sexual issues should be at the top of this list. So should our pride and arrogance, which was a contributing factor to getting us in this mess (comfort as the end goal of life is rooted in the desire to coddle self). People must be warned of the serious eternal consequences of walking away from the faith.

In a time of lies and deception, it’s important to be in God’s word every day.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (emphasis mine)
Ephesians 1:3-4

“You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:16

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
Hebrews 12:14

We treat church like a sacred boot camp. Holiness must be reintroduced into church culture. This is impossible to do if we won’t face our sin.

Remove or at least greatly reduce isolation from the church. Spend time during the weekend services breaking up into small groups, sharing, and praying for each other. This will go a long way to breaking up the effects of isolation. Set aside the idea that church is only about a message and worship. Read the book of Acts and follow their lead for teaching, fellowship, and prayer – note especially how they met for prayer often.

Rest is critical. We must take time to stop, reflect, wait, listen, and rest with God, often. One of Satan’s strategies is to wear God’s people down (Daniel 7:25).

This is the wrong time to be in bondage to any kind of sin. Get help, now. Don’t wait.

With a sense of urgency, we shepherd and equip our youth in the areas they’re being attacked with, including sexual issues, the occult, suicide (which is now the second cause of death among our youth), and spiritual warfare. We teach them how to be spiritual warriors and we give them a faith worth dying for. Turn off the video screens in the room where the youth groups meet! They have plenty of time for screens outside of the church.

We set our hearts on living a life that counts for the eternal. No more dodging the tough issues, no more coddling God’s people and treating them like spiritual five year old’s.

We go to war. We cry out in fervent prayer for the church, our youth, our families marriages, our countries, just like the Assyrians did in Jonah’s day…

when they received mercy from the Lord and averted the hammer of judgement.

Prayer Request  

Thank you for praying for the conference in Texas last weekend and when I gave the Sunday morning messages. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive; people were impacted, and we are continuing to see fruit from last weekend.

This Tuesday I will be back in San Antonio, Texas for a meeting of 200 pastors, where I have a table with our materials. Please pray for divine appointments, fruit, and healing, and that any attempt to thwart the time there by the enemy would be shut down.

With 30-50% of pastors reportedly struggling with porn, there are bound to be some there who need help. Many pastors feel trapped when it comes to sharing their weaknesses so we can offer them a safe haven to heal.