“Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form.” Psalm 73:20
For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14
“so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.” 1 Thessalonians 5:6
This term has entered our cultural lexicon as a political rallying cry for all those who, from an identity politics perspective, are becoming aware of their sense of being disenfranchised. The dictionary definition of this term is:
Woke – alert to injustice in society, especially racism. “We need to stay angry, and stay woke.”
The word implies that for a long time people have been asleep to some kind of injustice that exists, but are now wide awake to it, or -”woke”.
It seems to me that this term is just as applicable to those followers of Jesus, who have been in a sleep-like trance, mesmerized in a state of perpetual wonder by those big, sprawling entities that have come to be called mega-churches. As the curtains are pulled back to expose the ugly underbelly of such mega-churches as Willow Creek Community Church and Harvest Bible Chapel, those Christians are becoming “woke” from their spell. The scales that have clouded their understanding are falling from their eyes. More and more, they are able to clearly see the contrast between these huge man-made organizations, the mega-churches, and the original God-instituted organism, the church.
They can increasingly see that where mega-churches were built on the sand of celebrity pastors and organizational greatness, they do not reflect the blueprint of God’s true church. And, to the degree that they were not built according to the Master Architect’s blueprint, they were always in danger of crashing.
Organization Over Organism
The mega-church is heavy on organization and light on the organic nature of the church. As the mega-church grows, it becomes unwieldy, and so organizational structures are created. While the organism, which is the church, is a horizontal entity, featuring the priesthood of the believers with radical equality between all parts of the body, the organization is inherently vertical and hierarchical. The church of the Bible is only vertical in one dimension. All members of the body of Christ, who are equal and equally important, all look to the absolute Headship of Christ.
“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, in everything he might be preeminent” I Colossians 1:18
Mega-churches often are started and developed by individuals with a core narcissistic brokenness. Their personalities self-select becoming the head of a mega church organization. Self-selection is a concept in organizational psychology. Peoples’ personalities influence them to select certain jobs. The somewhat compulsive nature of some individuals, coupled with their high level of introversion, causes them to gravitate to jobs such as accountant. So it is, that narcissistic personalities move toward jobs that allow them to actualize their inner shadow need for importance, power, authority, and adulation. They do not have the Biblical qualifications for leadership demonstrated by John the Baptist, who said:
“After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” Mark 1:7
“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30
A Necessary Revolution
A revolution is underway occurring as God has begun a winnowing process within His church. God is jealous for His church, His bride. His reputation is most publicly lifted up by the example and behavior of His church. An inevitable crashing is occurring in those mega-forms of church that do not reflect his blueprint for the church. Those churches were built on the sand of celebrity pastors and organizational greatness. God is removing, and must remove, the mega-church caricatures of His true church, because they fundamentally misrepresent who He is — , and He is jealous for the integrity of His reputation. This revolution is occurring because, as in the political arena, whenever there is a disproportionate inequity between a governing elite and the governed, it cannot and should not survive.
Modern Day Prophets, True and False
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. Ephesians 5:11
Courageous Christian investigative reporters such as Julie Roys (julieroys.com), are pursuing and exposing elements of the church that are trying to masquerade as legitimate, while at the same time acting against the will of God. These true prophets are “woke”. They are revealing those who Jesus warned against:
“For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” Matthew 24:24
True prophets, of course, have always been hated by those whom they exposed. They have always spoken truth into the dark recesses of deceit, shining light onto the self-dealing corruption of those in power. But false prophets who reside in the darkness of their own evil deeds hate the light, because the light reveals their true nature (John 3:19). And if there’s one thing that false prophets do not want, it’s to be exposed for the self-loving narcissistic people that they are. By refusing to come into the light, they show that they do not love the One who saved them, or serve the One who they claim to honor. By trying to prevent the truth from being known, they show that they are bent on serving only themselves.
These self-serving individuals want to preserve their petty treasures of ill-gotten gain, so they lash back fiercely at what they view as attacks and criticism. It’s no wonder they react in anger. They’re angry because their deeds of darkness are being obliterated by the brilliant light of Truth. They’re angry because their power, prestige, and prosperity are being threatened. Their goal: kill the messenger.
“Woke” Christians Must Take Back The Church For Christ
The modern mega-church movement is so often not the church. But since they call themselves the church, many naive and immature new Christians believe it is the church. The mega-church movement is almost always created and governed, as mentioned before, by people with character flaws, who use the celebrity of their position to satisfy some hollow emptiness in their soul. They allow, and even promote, a culture of adulation. They consolidate their power at the top, and disenfranchise all believers who should be part of the priesthood of the believers. They create a ruling class of elites, and they systematically cultivate a pattern of absolute loyalty to the leader. They do not consistently step aside whenever it is evident that people see them as greater than Jesus. They may use “God words” to deceive their followers that they are following and are obedient to Jesus, . But their deeper shadow soul is revealed when their agenda, their ideas, their power, and their self-serving vision is challenged. It is then, with their caustic belittling and ruthless bullying, that the truth emerges; that this is not Christ’s church, but theirs.
In mega-churches, the person who cleans the bathrooms is not considered equal to the persons on stage. Organizational hierarchy inevitably places more importance on people at the top. They get paid more, they are given more power, and they get more respect. This is not the church. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who suggested that God’s Hall of Fame, when it is revealed, will likely be populated by Christians such as the humble washer woman who faithfully prayed in secret for the needs of people in the church. The true church is built on organismic equality, not organizational hierarchy. Rank? Title? Status? These are not found in God’s true church where we are, after all, members one of the other.
Those churches and those leaders that concentrate importance and power at the top cannot survive. It is no accident that Willow Creek and Harvest have fallen. God is jealous for His reputation, and His reputation is most fully seen and expressed in the life of the Body, the church. It is Christ’s church, and the gates of Hell itself cannot prevail against His church. He will never allow a church to survive that is not fully about His headship and the expression of His righteousness. This, above all else, is why Bill Hybels and James McDonald are no longer the heads of their churches. As the Old Testament says, Kings will rise and fall, but the Lord endures forever. Celebrity pastors will rise and fall, but if they do not display the humility necessary to sustain the pre-eminence of Jesus as the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, they will erode into the dust bowl of history.
Are we “woke” enough to shake off the mesmerizing twilight of mega-church celebrity personalities, and submit ourselves to Jesus, the true Head of the true church? Will we allow God’s light and truth to have its full effect in our lives?
And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. Romans 13: 11-14