A reason to rejoice, yes absolutely. But I had a nagging check in my spirit about the whole thing...
Now, I'm not a religious prude. I hope I'm not stating the obvious when I say that I'm not a Christian teenager anymore (just). I don't pretend to be - follicular dearth, and wrinkle crevasses that would put the Grand Canyon to shame - all put paid to that notion.
But my grumble is not the same as a 60 year-old curmudgeon might be when he screams 'Get off my lawn!'.
I don't begrudge young people having fun. I don't begrudge them meeting up for a shin-dig. And I certainly don't begrudge them getting together for Bible study and worship. But I've seen the damage when all three combine, and I had a feeling I would witness it first hand the coming Sunday.
Part 1: The Big Top: "Roll up, roll up!"
|The Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington.|
I arrived at the venue early for the 5pm service. I call it a venue and not a church, because it's hard to envisage the Michael Fowler Centre (or what we Wellingtonians call 'The Fowl House') - one of the biggest event centres in Wellington - as a church. It didn't fit right. I've been to secular concerts here. I watched Ray Charles twinkling to 'Georgia' on the massive grand piano here. I've mellowed to the NZ Symphony Orchestra here. I've listened to my son's school choir sing here.
Yes, yes, I know that the venue shouldn't matter, that it's only walls and a roof, but it really felt weird.
As soon as we (being myself, my wife, my son and our overseas student) walked through the doors of the Fowl House into the impressive foyer, it was obvious that we weren't in the church demographic. The average age of the 200 odd people milling around would have been mid-20's at the latest. The noise was deafening. The ones that weren't greeting and hugging each other raucously, were stationed in obvious places, glued to their smartphones. Obviously checking on when their friends would arrive, so that they could join the first group in their reunion cacophony.
As we were taking in the atmosphere, we were approached by a polite young gentleman, who introduced himself and asked us if we needed assistance. Goodness knows how he arrived at that, he must have been a detective or something. Or maybe it was something to do with my mouth being agape, and my eyes wide like saucers.
I told him my sister was being baptised tonight. He guided us up the stairs to where all the baptizees (is that a word? If not, then it is now) were prepping.
We were offered welcome packs (which I declined), and shown where all the facilities were. It really was a slick operation.
My sister was there waiting, and we too joined in the reunion throng. Oh, no, I was being assimilated!
We took our seats in the auditorium, and waited for the start. Our brother and his wife turned up to join us as well.
There was a countdown clock on the screen - a practice that our old church took up after going through 40 Days of Purpose. The stench of seeker-sensitivity was pungent in the air, and I was silently starting to hyperventilate.
I can remember when I was younger, I was the only one in the family who never smoked. I hated it with a vengeance. The way I got around this when everyone lit up, was either leave the vicinity, or slow down my breathing - take shallow breaths less often, only when necessary.
Since I was hemmed in, halfway down a row, it would have been rude for me to walk out, so I used the latter technique that night, which seemed to calm me down.
Exactly when the timer reached zero, the performance began. This was a slick, pre-rehearsed routine that obviously works like clockwork. And yes, that's right, I said 'performance', because that's what it felt like.
Part 2: The Ringmaster: "Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls!"
As the worship band were setting up, a young man named Ben Carroll came onto the stage and introduced himself as the Pastor of the church. "Good evening, church!", he yelled, to raucous cheers.
I remembered him from the bio on the church website that I researched mid-week. He was one of two pastors, and unfortunately the other one was his wife, Anna.
|Arise Church Wellington Pastor, Ben Carroll.|
He mentioned that they have services in campuses around the country; Whangarei, Hamilton, Kapiti, Christchurch and Dunedin being the others. I have heard of these satellite mega-churches, mainly in the States, but this is the first time I had come across it in NZ.
He talked about how the baptisms would work later. They could not do them on stage, due to all the expensive musical and digital equipment that the centre stored underneath. So they did them in a temporary pool out the back. They would put a live video feed on the big screen so we could all watch.
Then all the baptizees were paraded on the stage- about 20 in number, if I recall.
They were brought out, not that he could pray for them, no. So that everyone could all cheer and clap for the person we were there to support. Was this a baptismal service, or a beauty contest?
I was beginning to wonder what exactly was my sister being baptised for, and into?
Part 3: The Clown Act: Slapstick Supreme
They were all marched back out, and the pastor handed over to the worship leader.
And all of a sudden the language changed. The demeanour went from business-like to rock concert in the moment of a single drum strike.
|"Worship" at Arise Church.|
Bodies were bouncing up and down, arms and legs were flailing all over the place. The whole auditorium erupted into a temporary mosh-pit.
Words come up on the screen that we were meant to sing to, but I couldn't make out any tune. There wasn't one. Or at least none that anyone could sing to.
Words that talked about how much you love me, how I want you more than anything.
"Got me singing, like Ooh
All I really want is you"
Deep and meaningful? I guess, if you're 15 years old.
Scriptural? I can't remember anyone in scripture using these words. And I don't remember seeing any lyrics mentioning Jesus and all He has done for us, or us coming to God through repentance and faith in Christ.
OK. who are we singing about here? My girlfriend? Boyfriend? Or maybe my BFF?
Were these people actually worshipping God, or worshipping worship? I couldn't tell, but I had my suspicions that they couldn't tell either. Looking around, everyone looked like they were too caught up in the hysteria to discern either way.
I caught my wifes' eye, she looked as dumbfounded as I was.
Part 4: The Serious Act: The Sword Swallowers
After being tortured for 2 songs that lasted for 10 minutes each, the time came for the baptisms. The worship band begun some slow cheezy song.
I call these 'nothing' songs. These are like the ones you hear on the radio that have no connection whatsoever with the listener. They speak of something generic like love or life in general, then at the end you can't remember any of the lyrics, because to you, the song was meaningless.
I remember some of the lyrics were "Forever You will reign, Holy is Your name".
It's hard to explain - I'm not saying these words are meaningless, but they didn't fit the context of what I was observing, so for me it was pointless singing it.
As each person was shown in the pool from the big screen, there were loud cheers. We didn't have an audio feed, so we couldn't hear anything.
But then everyone held their breath while each one were obviously being asked questions, and giving answers. Then they were dunked, which brought a collective releasing of air from everyone, followed by another huge cheer. Another meaningless verse was sung, and the next person would show up on the screen, and so forth.
Then my sisters' time came. I could see someone asking her some questions, her responding, and being baptised. I felt honoured, but worried at the same time.
For over 30 years, some of our family had been praying for my little sisters' salvation. Both my parents went to their graves without seeing the fruit of their labour on their knees.
She knew all this time what was required of her. She had been bought up in a Christian home, and exposed to the same teachings and services, just like I was. But she chose a different path.
But God chose to guide her back, slowly but surely. I think she knew it would inevitably happen, but was too naive to make it happen herself. Over time God softened her heart, and through providentially arranged circumstances, she surrendered to Him.
After the baptisms, those close to her were given the opportunity to surround her and pray for her, and our family took that opportunity.
My brother told her of all the years our parents have been interceding for her, has come to this. I told her how proud they would be of her, how proud I was and how much I loved her. It was a special time, and a much-needed time.
I could have happily left the service there and then. I had seen what I wanted to see, but I also had seen what I didn't want to see.
But, unfortunately, there was more...
We took our seats again, and the horrible music finally finished (phew!).
|Arise Church Lead Pastors John & Gillian Cameron.|
But my heart sank even further as another person whose bio I studied on the church website - John Cameron - took to the stage. And I had heard this person preach before, from a website that critiques sermons - not in a good way, I might add.
Apparently John, along with his wife Gillian, are the "Lead" Pastors at Arise Church. He's the Big Chief, the poster boy who unites all the campuses.
OK, I was getting it now: Wellington is the 'mother' church, whereas Whangarei, Hamilton, Kapiti, Christchurch & Dunedin are the satellite ones. It looks like they do their own thing, but when it comes to sermon time, they all hook in to Wellington and watch this dude.
So he's the Kiwi equivalent of Perry Noble of Newspring Church, or Bill Hybels of Willow Creek. For me, that's more nails in the coffin.
This Cameron is a very dynamic speaker. He knows how to get the crowd whipped up.
|The quote says it all - false teacher Phil Pringle.|
I could smell Cameron's insincerity a mile away. He was saying things everyone wanted to hear.
And of course, he mentioned the new multi-million dollar headquarters that was being built in Lower Hutt, complete with graph timeline payment of course. Apparently as it is being built, they have already outgrown it. I swear I felt my wallet cower into the corner of my trouser pocket.
So, straight away I pegged this guy as a phony, and soon my suspicions would be confirmed when he opened his Bible.
The church was in the middle of a 3 part sermon series: Why we do what we do.
Sadly (no, not really) I had missed the first installment that morning: Why we do our Sunday services. Cameron summarised that the answer was "so that lost people can encounter Jesus". The Seeker-Sensitive Lie laid bare before everyone. Backwards church for a backwards message, for lost goats that needed their ears tickled.
Tonight was the second installment, in Exodus 18:25, where Moses divided the people in lots of 1000, 100, 50 and tens. "Somebody shout 10! I can't hear you, Dunedin, somebody shout 10!". This annoys me, and only further proves that he's more interested in being cool than being a preacher. Those that try and be both usually fall flat on their faces.
OK. Where was he going with this one? One verse, ripped out of context, to explain why we do what we do? He might have to become an exegetical contortionist with this one.
"Israel in the Old Testament is a picture of the church in the New Testament".
OK, that tells me a lot. He's into Replacement Theology, or Supersessionism. This is when everything that pertains to Israel in the Old Testament applies to the church in the New. This not only has eschatological pitfalls, it strips the Gospel of its' richness and power.
And it's also a lazy and heretical way of planting yourself into the story.
Because when you can't be bothered to do a historical, contextual study of a text, all you have to do is exchange the biblical characters for yourself, and bingo:
- you're now David, and Goliath is your problems you have to slay.
- or you're Daniel, and the lions won't eat you if you pray hard.
- or you're Samuel, and God is telling you your future destiny in dreams.
Then he made another biblical leap. He bought up a picture of how the 12 tribes were camped around the tabernacle in the wilderness. His main point was that no tribe was any closer than another tribe, meaning there were no super-Christians, that everyone was the same. They were camped in the North, South, East and West.
He added Num 2:2 to the mix, noting that the tents all opened towards the tabernacle, although the slide he used didn't really reflect that.
Then he said "If you want your life to be as God desires it, then camp your life around God's house, and open your day towards God's house".
Um...OK. It's a bit cold for pitching a tent at the moment. And our house faces North-West, so how does that work? Oh, no, I can't be living my life as God desires! Does that mean I need to rebuild my house?
Also, my house is in the hills in the Hutt Valley, and I have a beautiful panoramic view of the Eastern Hutt. But I can't see our church from here. Oh, no, does that mean my life can't be as God desires?
It may sound silly what I'm saying by taking his assertions too far. But in actual fact, I'm doing exactly what he is doing - I'm taking what he believes are Biblical principles, and applying them to my life.
This is where his doctrine parts company with the narrative. Why? Because of his false belief that anything pertaining to Israel automatically applies to him, and Arise Church.
"The second thing I noticed was how the people were grouped...Moses chose capable leaders and broke the people up into groups of 1,000, 100, 50 and 10. So if you and I are going to flourish as a believer, you need to build your life around God's house.
He could have found lots of other verses (in context) to push home this point, so why did he have to allegorise this one? Answer, because he has an agenda.
"I have been a Christian for 25 years now, I have built my life around God's house. I've missed so few church services that you could count them on two hands."
Let's all stand and applaud John Cameron. I thought he said there were no super-Christians? Oh, yeah, I forgot, that doesn't apply to him.
"For me, God's house is not priority number 798, 3, or even number 2, it's at the top, at the centre".
|John Cameron at the Michael Fowler Centre|
But then again, you need to brow-beat these people into coming to church. You need to drill home the importance of coming along. You have the rent of the Fowl House to pay. You need people to usher folk to seats. You need people to mop up after the baptisms, to pass out the collection containers, count up the money afterwards (without my portion), set up and take down the sound gear, neon lights, and smoke machines.
All the charade needs volunteers, and truck loads of them. And to keep them coming back week after week, you need to guilt-trip them into thinking that if they don't return, they won't flourish as a believer. Lies. Cheap shots. And it's all law, no grace.
"Secondly...we need a small group of people involved in our lives".
OK, I see where this is going now...
"God doesn't want you being one face in a crowd of 1,000, He wants you being one person in a group of 10."
Um, where does it say in Exodus 18 that I need to be in a group of 10? Oh, that's right, we are Israel now, and this applies to us. Did this guy miss Hermeneutics 101 at Seminary? Did he even go to Seminary?
Then again, Cameron is not interested in what the passage means. He has hijacked the narrative to mean something totally different than its' intention.
"If we're going to live the life God wants us to have, then we need to be not only a person towards God's house, but be in a small group, a Life group, with other believers as well".
This is a new church doctrine invented by Cameron, not found anywhere in scripture. If this is what preaching is all about, then I could invent a doctrine much better than this, and be the best speaker on the planet.
So the group of 1,000 is the church congregation, and the group of 10 is a small or 'Life' group. But what about the group of 100, or 50? Oh, that doesn't fit his agenda, so he conveniently bypasses that.
"Jesus preached to thousands on the sermon on the mount, and he also dissected that sermon with 12. If you want your life to be blessed, then be at church every Sunday, to hear what I think is a great message, but you need a group of 12, or a group of 10, that you can put that sermon to work in your life".
Hang on, now I'm confused. Is it 12, or is it 10? There were 12 tents, and 12 disciples, but Moses split the people into groups of 10. If I really want God to bless my life, then I'm going to need to get this right, according to Cameron. So if I join a group of 12, it works for the disciples but not for me. But Moses had groups of 10, so it must work! Oh, no, how am I supposed to put this 'great message' into practice without offending God?
Do you see the folly of what happens when we apply doctrine to scripture, instead of the other way around?
Cameron went on to say that when he first became a Christian he attended a group, and came under the influence of the teachings of Edwin Lewis (Ed) Cole.
I did a search on the interweb for him. It seems Cole was around pre-Rick Warren. I clicked on the below random 'Maximized Minute' excerpt (edcole.org) and heard:
- "If you look for the Supernatural only in the spectacular, you will miss the Holy Spirit. Too many people look only for God in spectacular works, when the greatest work in a man's life is to be born and lead by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will never lead anyone to do anything contrary to the Word of God. Inconsistency with the will of God, or opposition to the ways of God, are not the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit's greatest work is the production of Christ-likeness in our life."
And that's how I know he is a phony. His messages are not inspired by the Holy Spirit, because - as Cole rightly pointed out - the Holy Spirit does not contravene the Word of God.
Cameron said it was amazing that in the Bible when Mary first found out that she was pregnant, the first thing she did was search out Elizabeth, so that she could be with someone else who was also pregnant, and together they could share about their experiences in their life.
I almost laughed out loud when I heard that ridiculous statement. That is a huge stretch to make that apply to small groups. It is also extremely devious on Cameron's part - nowhere in the text does it say that Mary wanted to share her life experience with Elizabeth. That's called eisegesis, reading into the text what isn't there.
I re-read Luke 1 just to confirm my suspicions. To me it looks like the purpose of Mary's visit was to pass on news to her that the baby in her womb was the promised Messiah that the baby in Elizabeth's womb would prepare the way for. Elizabeth's baby leapt in her womb, she was filled with the Holy Spirit, and together they worshipped God.
I didn't read anything about 'sharing life experiences with each other', or 'doing life together'.
This sermon is theologically going downhill pretty fast, although from all the 'Amen!'s I heard, I think maybe I was the only one in the audience aware of it.
"Nothing in the Christian faith works, unless we have relationships".
This is another reckless statement, designed to fit his doctrine of joining an Arise church small group.
I think of all those persecuted Christians in prison, with no access to family, friends, or other believers. If you read their memoirs, they will describe that they never felt as close to God as when they were experiencing the terrible conditions and loneliness of isolation from the outside world. Sometimes in loneliness you feel closer to God than when you are with other believers.
"I know people who say they love to pray, but don't want to get involved in the lives of other people. And my thought to that is...'what God are you praying to?' ".
Ouch, that hurts. This trip is really bumpy. I think the springs on the guilt-trip bus need replacing.
"I was down the front earlier, watching people praying together, and I was nearly crying. And I thought I'm so glad I'm giving all my money to the building fund, and life after life is changing, friends are sharing to what God has done in their life".
Wow, that was a cheap plug for money. Stir them up, give them what they want, and berate them to give more and more, so that we can continue the charade. What a hopeless cycle that is.
Then Cameron twists another scripture, Rom 10:8-9:
- "But what does it say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart, (that is, the word of faith we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved'."
Firstly, Paul is in the middle of an argument to prove that man is hell bent on becoming a better person by fulfilling the law, but Christ came to fulfil the law on our behalf. It is our duty to realise this, acknowledge it, and surrender to it. That's the beautiful Gospel right there, encompassing the whole of chapter 10.
But listen where Cameron takes this:
"When you're in a church, and you hear a message, and something comes alive inside of you, belief is birthed. But if you don't have a group of people that you can confess what God is speaking to you about, what God is doing in your heart, then I have found that the life change just doesn't continue. The message doesn't work its' way out".
So, is that what Paul was referring to when he wrote Romans 10?
What happened to the law?
Where did Jesus go?
Where did the Gospel disappear to?
The Gospel was right in front of his nose, and he missed it. He missed sharing the best news these people needed to hear, all because he was looking for something that matched his made up doctrine.
This is what happens when you are lazy in your Bible study. You should always read texts in context to the surrounding ones, and apply the principles the author intended.
But when you use Google word-searches to strip-mine the Bible and pick out words and phrases that back up YOUR doctrine, what you are in essence doing is robbing the Word of God of its' power.
So, does Romans 10:8-9 tell us that if I don't share what God is telling me to others, then life change won't continue? Sorry, in context, those verses say something totally different. Cameron is lying to his congregation. He doesn't care about the authors' intention. He has his own agenda, and God's Word is not going to get in the way of it.
Cameron then goes on to brag that the newly completed Arise conference was the biggest convention in Wellington this year.
Big deal. Amway has huge conferences in New Zealand, but that doesn't mean it's good for the people, or the country.
He says that it's mostly people in Arise life groups that attend these conferences. Also, most of those that serve in the church also attend life groups.
"And we began to see that there's a massive correlation. When you are part of a small group, you display signs of spiritual health...when you're not in a small group, you're not showing signs of being pastorally in a good place of health".
That is a very presumptuous and pompous statement. Of course you want people to attend your conferences - that's the easiest way to get people together so that money-grubbing televangelist liars like Phil Pringle can fleece them for all they've got.
Of course you want people to volunteer at church - there's a huge rota to fill.
And of course you want people in home groups - that's the best and quickest way to put your false teaching into practice.
So you lie to them, tell them that unless they do or don't do this, or do or don't do that, then their lives won't be fruitful. All law - do, do, do. Putting them under judgement.
Then something dawns on me - where is Christ in this message? We're over 20 minutes into this sermon, and he hasn't been mentioned apart from the odd 'in Jesus name' he's thrown out, to give his sermon weight.
More scripture-twisting is added:
Prov 18:1 apparently means that if you're not in a life group you're selfish.
Acts 2:42 apparently is about meeting on Sundays and also being in a life group, because that's what the apostles did.
"Every believer needs these 2 things [Sunday worship and small groups] in order to live the life God wants us to live".
I hate the expressions "live the life God wants you to live", "be the person God wants you to be", or "walk in the destiny God has for you". They speak so presumptuously of God, as if they know exactly what God's plan for me is.
I always use this analogy on Pastors that push this teaching:
I ask them "If I pulled a gun out of my pocket, put it to your head, pulled the trigger and blew your brains out - am I fulfilling my God-given destiny for my life?".
If the answer is "No, you wouldn't. God wouldn't want you to do that!".
To which I would say "Your God is not the God of the Bible. You are clueless about His Sovereignty, portraying Him as a bumbling idiot with no idea or control over what goes on. How do you know that isn't His plan for me to shoot you?".
If the answer is "Yes, God knows and plans everything, so you would be fulfilling your destiny".
To which I would say "Then stop lying to your congregation. Stop telling them that God will only work in their lives if they do something good".
"There are things I believe God wants for every person:
God wants every person to be known Is 45:3 (NKJV) '...who call you by name...' "
You know it's a show of desperation when a Preacher pulls out the middle part of one verse to make a point.
Is 45:4 (NKJV) 'I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known me'. God wants you to be known by other people".
The text doesn't say the last sentence, Cameron just added that in.
"Romans 9:28 (The Message) 'God doesn't count us, He knows us by name.' "
Either The Message got it totally wrong (highly plausible, it gets everything wrong), or he quoted the wrong passage. Apparently God doesn't care about numbers, He cares about names.
"God doesn't want you to be a face in a crowd, He wants you to be a name in a group".
That's another bold assertion of God that can't be found anywhere in scripture. Since Paul is in the middle of a discourse regarding God's sovereignty in choosing to save whoever He wants to save, I doubt that Romans 9 has anything to do with names or small groups.
"Healing doesn't come through a sermon...but if it doesn't become a decision or something that is shared with other people - I want you to know that you can only be healed with other people involved."
Whoa, where did that come from? OK, that made me angry. I was trying to hide the steam coming out of my ears, and I was fighting back the urge to scream 'Liar!'. I can't think of one verse in the Bible to back that up.
"Don't believe me? James 5:16: 'Confess your sins to each other, pray for each other, so that you may be healed'. So healing doesn't happen in a church service, it happens in a small group".
Cameron has fallen into a hermeneutical ditch. Just because one verse says one thing, you can't just say that the opposite automatically applies as well.
For example, if the Mustang on your right is faster than the Bambino on your left, I can say that if you want to get to the hospital super quick, the Bambino on the left is the wrong choice.
But what I can't say is that every Bambino is slower than a Mustang. There might be some out there that aren't. The opposite doesn't automatically apply.
James 5:16 says to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
I can say that if you want to be healed, it would be advisable for you to confess your sins to someone, and have them pray for you.
But I can't say that if you don't confess your sins to someone, and have them pray for you, then you can't be healed. The text doesn't say that, and I could probably find examples in the Bible of people getting healed without confessing their sins to someone and having them pray for them. The opposite doesn't automatically apply.
I'm beginning to think Cameron is the Pastor of Arise because he is a good communicator rather than a good exegete. I think he may have slept through Seminary, if he went at all.
"Healing comes through other people! Yeah, that's right, give God some praise!!"
Now He's attributing God for his blasphemous and reckless statements. He's riding on emotional adrenaline.
"God wants us to grow. God does not want us to stay the same. Prov 27:17 says that as iron sharpens iron, so in a big church service sharpens people. [feigns confusion]. It doesn't say that does it? As iron sharpens iron, so one man, one woman sharpens another. If there's no relationship, there's no growth.".
Again, a partial truth, but the opposite connotation could be left out.
Church of the Highlands Pastor.
Cameron said that he thought he was plateauing in his spiritual life. Then God told him to build a relationship with Chris Hodges. I think he means the Chris Hodges of churchofthehighlands.com . A quick interweb lookup tells me that he's a church growth expert.
I don't know much about Hodges, but In his promo video to his book Fresh Air, he says "...maybe you're here because you know what a God-breathed fresh air experience is like, and you just want to know how you can make that more of a live-it-every-day kind of thing. Look around and be encouraged how to live a God-breathed life'.
Um, what? If you've never heard a sentence that means biblically nothing, there's one right there. The fact that the foreword of the book was written by narcissist Craig Groeschel tells me all I need to know.
I don't believe Cameron when he said it was God that told him to start texting him.
Firstly, if God spoke direct revelation to Cameron (which He doesn't), he would be incapable of understanding Him, because he can't even exegete anything in His written Word; and
Secondly, I seriously doubt God would want Cameron to have anything to do with a Seeker-Sensitive church growth guru.
If God was talking to Cameron, he would be saying "Stop lying and twisting My Word!".
"We started texting back and forth. And I happened to be in the same city as him, and I managed to have a conversation with him for 3 hours, and now I can say that I don't plateau anymore. Having the right relationships in your life will help you grow."
But you're not in the same small group as Chris Hodges, and according to your made-up formula, you can't grow, so how does that work?
I still haven't heard any mention of Christ and him crucified, but I have heard lots of anecdotal stories about John Cameron and Arise Church.
"God wants you to help others. He wants you to be a blessing...and in a life group you get the opportunity to help other people...that's why everybody needs to be part of a life group".
A half-truth there. Apparently Sunday service is not the place for any of that.
"I get shocked when I meet Christians who say they have been Christians for 25 years, and say 'I don't need that small group stuff anymore'. And I'm like 'I'm going to slap you sideways'. What a selfish attitude that is. How about using a cell group not for what you can get out of it, but use that knowledge that God gave you - you think He healed you just to heal you? He healed you so that you can heal somebody else".
Firstly, you or I can't heal anybody. That job goes to God.
Secondly, why can't I pray for someone's healing during or after a church service?
Thirdly, what about the prayer time we had for the baptizees, was that not appropriate because it wasn't in a life group setting? This is double-speak, also known as hypocrisy.
"If you keep taking everything God's given to you, and you say 'in my small group, I'm going to give it all away to other people', watch joy increase in your life, watch blessing overflow in your heart, watch your pantry fill up with food, watch your heart fill up with love, watch quality relationships flourish around you. We're blessed to be a blessing. Help somebody else, and God's gonna start helping you! Who's with me tonight? Come on, let's give God some praise together!"
Cameron has applied so many conditions on your spiritual life. Apparently God can only act after you are obedient. No free grace here, just law, law, and more law - all topped off with a sprinkling of word/faith heresy. Phil Pringle has taught him well.
Now he invites the 'band' back on the stage. Not the worship team, but the band. And that's the correct term for them, because they don't lead people to worship, they are entertainers.
" I believe the life is in the group. If you want God to be a blessing in your life, then make sure you're part of a life group".
You may believe that, but if it's not in scripture (in context) then regardless of how many times you repeat it, it's still heretical to speak on God's behalf what He has not ordained in scripture.
The piano is starting to play. Here is the set-up to create a fake atmosphere where the Holy Spirit will be descending, to prompt me to make a decision to join an Arise small group.
"I believe our church is going to do something great for God.".
Not based on this sermon, you won't. I can sense that I am about to be manipulated. The cheesy music is designed to soften me up.
"Maybe you attend Arise, and God is speaking to you to get involved in a small group. To get connected. To pour into someone else's life, and have them pour into you. Under your seat, there's a form you can fill in, to place in the box on the way out. Put your details on there, and someone will contact you to help you get connected into the right life group."
No thanks, I have enough trouble with spam in my email inbox without you adding to it.
Then begins the most blasphemous and unbiblical altar call I have ever heard.
"Maybe God is speaking to your heart today.".
Yes He is, but the only word I can hear is "RUN!".
"I said earlier that Arise exists so that people can encounter Jesus. Maybe you're here tonight for the first time, or because someone you know was being baptised. You've come here, and you're asking 'what is Jesus all about? How can I encounter Him?'. Well, I've got good news for you. You can experience Jesus right now".
Hmm, not the Jesus of the Bible, though. I have no idea which Jesus you're peddling.
"I want everyone in all our campuses to bow their heads, and close their eyes. And I'm going to pray a prayer. And if you feel Jesus is knocking on your heart, wanting to have an encounter with you, I want you to repeat this prayer."
That's my cue to keep my head up and eyes open. Cameron is about to pull off a con. I know, because I've fallen for this a few times myself. With the piano playing minor chords in the background - fooling us into thinking the Holy Spirit is with us - he will make an emotional law-based plea with the congregation to make a decision to ask Jesus into their hearts.
And the best way to pull this off is have all eyes closed and heads bowed, so that they are tricked into thinking that lots of people are becoming Christians. Maybe this guy did go to seminary - Charles Finney's.
Pray after me. 'Jesus, I know you're knocking at the door of my heart. I want to change. I need to change. Right now, I open the door, and invite you in to change me into a new person. I ask you to forgive me of my sins, and wash me clean. Come into my heart right now. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen."
This was the first mention of sin all night. It's a pity he didn't tell them what sin is.
But he wasn't finished:
"All heads bowed and eyes closed. If you prayed that prayer, what I want you to do is put up your hand, nice and high so that I can see. I see it, thank you. Thank you. To my left, thank you. Up in the balcony, thank you".
He was thanking specific sections of the congregation. We were about ten rows from the back of the auditorium, and I think I saw in all about five hands go up. But the number of thank-yous he said was out-numbering the hands by about three-to-one. What a slick con-artist he was. But they were none the wiser, because they all did what they were told, and had their eyes closed.
"Those three hands in Christchurch, I see you, thank you".
I'm pretty sure he didn't have a monitor in front of him, or an audio feed in his ear. How would he know that? Was the Holy Spirit telling him? No, I doubt if the Holy Spirit would want anything to do with this charade.
No, he was lying, trying to make out that lots of people were becoming Christians.
Then the people were asked to come up to the front for prayer, and declared "Christians". I put that word in quotes, because they wouldn't be Christians in the true biblical sense. I feared for them on the day of judgement, to be told "Depart from me, you worker of iniquity, I never knew you!" (Matt 7:23).
Cameron then handed back over to the worship band, waved goodbye (to raucous applause), and left the stage.
Unfortunately, the rest of us had to endure another repeat of the first body-jumping, fist-pumping, nothing song:
Part 5: Thank You For Coming: The Carnival Is Over
I left the Fowl House scratching my head, thinking "what was that I just sat through?".
It was my first taste of Arise Church, and with God's grace, my last...
This place had brought back all the memories of the worst things from previous churches I had attended, bunched all together, and spat out into a big ball of heresy.
I had heard of these mega-wannabe-churches, with Pastors (cough cough) that want to be relevant. Want to be the be the best. Want to be the biggest.
And what's the best way for them to do that? Copy what the world does (and badly, I might add), slap the word "Christian" on it, and call it "church".
What I went through that day - would you define as church? I wouldn't.
Where is the real Gospel? Where is the proper exegeting of God's Word - in context?
Where are the REAL Pastors, who will die for their sheep - will care for them, nurture them, and feed them life-sustaining nourishment they need?
They have been replaced with hirelings, who entertain goats. Who tickle peoples' ears. Who give them what they want - rock concerts and life-tips, to help them through the week until the following Sunday, when they can do it all again.
I always thought 'Only in America'. But thanks mainly to the influence and infiltration of Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Church", everybody is on the bandwagon.
I know, because some years ago I was Elder at a church that fell for the lie, and pushed for it.
Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay My life down for the sheep".
These hirelings have created their own fields, filled them with sheep, and left the gates open for all manner of goats and wolves to enter. They care nothing for those they are supposedly meant to care for.
And the food he feeds them? Scraps of out-of-context bible verses, life-tips to keep them alive until the next measly morsel offering. All-condemning, dry law. Any sheep left in the field are left malnourished, disease-ridden, and dying.
What do the sheep really need? A good shepherd, who is willing to die for his sheep.
A shepherd who feeds his sheep the luscious food of the glorious Gospel, and the ever-quenching living water of eternal life - given to us from God's Son - who fulfilled the requirements of the law on our behalf, and gave up His life for us, so that we can find rest from trying to fulfil the law ourselves.
That would be a very good shepherd, indeed, and what Arise Church requires.