I believe this is a word from the Lord to His church, and it is given in the Spirit of His love, as discipline. If your child is doing something that will harm him, you discipline him because you love him. So consider this to be a loving message of discipline from Him to His people.
To the grief of the Holy Spirit, much of the church has become a business. It uses demographics to determine where to set up shop for maximum income, defines success by corporate standards (numbers) rather than the Lord’s (Christlikeness), and delivers entertainment and a self-satisfying message to its audience in the pews. It is incorporated, assimilated, and will be humiliated. The church, swamped with sin, is relying on man’s methods to shore itself up, but there is no strength in it — not God’s strength.
The Lord spoke through Isaiah, warning Israel about the same thing. They did not want to hear about the Holy One of Israel, but wanted smooth things spoken to them (Isaiah 30:10-11). Tradition has it that Isaiah ultimately was sawn in two for speaking God’s hard but loving warnings to His people, warnings like this:
Is. 30:1-3 “Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the LORD,
Who execute a plan, but not Mine,
And make an alliance, but not of My Spirit,
In order to add sin to sin;
Who proceed down to Egypt
Without consulting Me,
To take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh
And to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!
Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame
And the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation.”
Many in the church seem not to realize that in seeking man’s methods, they are rebelling against the Lord. Rebellion is sin. They believe corporate methods are good and can be used for the kingdom. But they execute a plan that is not the Lord’s plan. The Lord’s plan requires that we submit our entire selves to God as living sacrifices, so He can purify our hearts. That’s not a popular message. Most churchgoers want to be catered to, like in the business world. Many churches have fashioned themselves into a business image, and the patrons in the pews expect service. Worship services are fashioned to entertain, so patrons in the pews believe they can give “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to what is offered.
But what is God’s plan? What is the true business of the church? That our gatherings be for Him and not us, to thank Him for His love and to work the works of Jesus Christ and greater (John 14:12). Our gatherings are to be times to be exhorted and encouraged to press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. We gather and then fan out in order to serve and glorify Him by going out in His power and not man’s — to serve rather than to be served. That’s not a popular message, either.
We make alliances with the corporate world rather than making an alliance that is of His Spirit. Many leaders read books written by businessmen on everything from leadership to marketing, rather than consulting the Lord. Some of my courses toward ordination were of this ailment-advancing ilk. I did what I had to in order to be ordained, but then said to the Lord, “That’s what man says, but what do You say, O Lord?” And the Lord said, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” In other words, “Make yourself soft and pliable, and then wrap yourself around Me like a glove over a hand. Then My desires will become your desires. When you are filled with My Spirit, I will make you so much like Me, your Teacher, that you will look like Me to this dark world and those in the darkness will be drawn to My light in you.” That’s the business of the church, dear brothers and sisters! God’s plan is for all mankind to be saved. How does Jesus Christ say that will happen? By waiting in the city until we are clothed from power on high, when we are filled with His Holy Spirit. Then we will make an alliance that is of His Spirit. That is the business of the church — her only business.
For those in the church who continue to pursue man’s ways, the Lord says through Isaiah to us, as clearly as He spoke to Israel:
Is. 31:1-3 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
And rely on horses,
And trust in chariots because they are many
And in horsemen because they are very strong,
But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!
Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster
And does not retract His words,
But will arise against the house of evildoers
And against the help of the workers of iniquity.
Now the Egyptians are men and not God,
And their horses are flesh and not spirit;
So the LORD will stretch out His hand,
And he who helps will stumble
And he who is helped will fall,
And all of them will come to an end together.
Corporate ways look so good to many in the church! Look how strong they are, and how many people they are able to attract! Their ideas are so wise! But God is wiser, and He will bring disaster to those who trust in and rely on man’s methods rather than God’s. These corporate folks are men and not God, their strength is man’s and not the Spirit’s. As He did in Israel, so He will do now, not because He is a “mean” God, but because He will do whatever is necessary to make His people stop going their way and return to His. He loves His church THAT much! I pray we return to Him now, while the axe is laid at the root, before the Lord wields it to cut off that which is not of His Spirit.