Jan Markell
Olive Tree Ministries, Inc

The book of Jude tells us to stand for truth and to contend for the faith and for sound doctrine. I hear from many pastors who do so and even use the Olive Tree Web site and radio show as resources for truth. At the same time, I hear from hundreds of Christians across North America, Australia, New Zealand, and beyond that Jesus is being disguised to make Him and the church “less offensive” and acceptable to “seekers.” In some cases a few “seasoned believers” go along with this as it is a break in this maximum-stress 21st Century and the “feel good message” is a break from the bad news. Many today don’t want to hear hard-hitting, fearless, tell-it-like-it is preaching. I do not think that the prophets of the Old Testament or the Apostles of the New Testament would be very welcome in many of today’s churches. Many, particularly Paul and Jesus, got specific about things that were not right in the New Testament church. Old Testament prophets were scorned, too.

I was saved at age ten through, dare I say, a “hell-fire and brimstone” Jewish evangelist Dr. Hyman Appleman and while that style of preaching is hardly my favorite, it resonated with me as a kid, convicted me of my sins, and caused me to repent and make a life-long decision to follow Christ. I was too young to fully understand his entire message but his passion for the Bible and message struck me as truth and I’d better respond.

But the times they are a-changing. In the last 5-10 years churches that once taught the Bible verse-by-verse and warned attendees of the horrors of eternal damnation are diminishing at a rapid rate. Gimmicks and techniques are being employed to draw in the masses. Some measure what it is the people seem to want and they also employ “experts” who use worldly principles with “promised goals of success in multiplying attendance and expanding the building” if you will follow their “marketing method.” Sadly, this “method” has little to do with the Bible or expository preaching.

Emails pour into this office from many countries as I said from people who approached church leadership about certain practices, teachings, and teachers who they felt were not healthy for their church. They were called “divisive,” and “argumentative,” and some were point-blank asked to leave the church on the spot. For some it was their church home for 20 and 30 years. So not only were they “disenfranchised,” they were broken-hearted because their intentions were only to spare the church problems and a potential split as others in the congregation were talking about moving on. Why would anybody want to do or say something malicious and divisive against their church when our Lord speaks with such heartfelt love for His church?

We also have an explosion of false teachers in the last 30 – 40 years. They existed in Bible times as well and were dealt with, and nothing has changed except that today’s false teachers have the funds to tap into the technology–mainly television–to spread their false teachings. There also seems to be less discernment today so the false teachers are gathering huge numbers of followers. Some of these teachers know truth but want to preach what they think people want to hear today. Some are in the deception business for financial gain. Jesus warned about it when He said, “Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves” (Matt. 7:15). Paul said, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). This is referred to again in 2 Peter 2:1.

Also at play is the great “end-time falling away” or apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3) and the fact that people are chasing after “every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). Many will not “endure sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:30) and have turned their ears from truth wanting only their “ears tickled” (2 Tim. 4:3, 4). This is particularly true with those who seek after “signs and wonders” and “experience” rather than sound, biblical teaching.

A balance is needed. God is still doing the miraculous and I am not playing down the legitimacy of God’s supernatural power being demonstrated today. I was healed of a 21-year disease the summer of 2000; nonetheless, I am uncomfortable with the number of believers I see making “experience” the focus of their faith. A mini-version of that healing is posted under “Jan’s Articles” at the Web site, www.olivetreeviews.org and it is titled “Waiting for a Miracle.” I carry the book under “Our Products” at the site and it is the same title.

Some people must speak up about the “great falling away” happening today and it does not have to be done in a divisive, mean-spirited manner. It could head trouble off at the pass before loved ones venture down a dark alley and become spiritually harmed by leaders who no longer practice discernment. Most of those speaking out against the questionable programs, clever marketing techniques, theologies, and false teachers, all love their church and want to see it grow and prosper. However, the “methods” employed to attain this are recognized by some as gimmicks that will harm church attendees, get the style of preaching down to a level where few can grow spiritually, and create a climate where not that many can get genuinely saved and then mature in the faith.

“But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand” (Ezekiel 33:6).