Harlotry in the Local Church


It seems that the evangelical church is struggling with an identity crisis.  There is an incredible desire to find “relevance” in a secular society.  The small prophetic book of Hosea has a serious warning to every pastor and parishioner.

Hosea was called by God to marry a prostitute. God was going to use Hosea’s marriage as an illustration of His own relationship with the nation of Israel. Soon after the marriage, Hosea’s wife Gomer went out prostituting herself again. She prettied herself up to appeal to everyone but her husband. She sought after the acceptance and material things that other men provided. She didn’t care what her husband thought or wanted.

No matter how Hosea appealed to Gomer to be faithful only to him, she refused. Finally the end came. Gomer became a slave of the men from whom she appealed to for favor and acceptance.

This is how Israel treated God Almighty and His term for Israel’s mentality and action was harlotry, and God rejected Israel for it.

Does not the local church today also play the harlot?

The denomination I was formerly involved with had a “church growth” plan that included inviting unsaved people into the local church to critique the minister and the ministry and provide directions for better appealing to the lost. Pastors were then given 6 months to implement the plan produced with the help of unsaved neighbors and businessmen or be fired. Since when did the primary mission of the local church become attracting the unsaved? They demand that the Gospel of offense not be tamed, but put to death to soothe their depraved souls. The goal is relevance to sinners.

We are severely off course. We attempt to be like other “successful” churches or businesses instead of glorifying the Father through Jesus.  … to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen  (Eph 3:21).  And how does Paul say this glorying is accomplished?  Through spiritual growth of believers (Eph 3:14-20) not through pandering to the spiritually dead (Eph 2:1-3) or being like Dr Frankenstein and building a mish-mashed monster from the models of other churches or businesses.

If the Gospel is an offense to those who are perishing, but life to those who are being saved, why would we purposely appeal to the dead rather than feed the living?  The dead cannot worship, pray, or eat the food of the Word – until they’re first regenerated.  Isn’t the church supposed to be a gathering of saints?

I’m not sorry if this is offensive, but regeneration is the work of the Spirit of God not our feeble attempts at mimicry or harlotry.  We are relevant because of the message we preach; not because of how many people hear or accept us.  The church is relevant when we honor our Head rather than the dead bodies in the gutters.  The church is relevant because it is indwelt by the Spirit of God and faithful to Christ.

My song leader in another church became frustrated by criticism.  My instruction was simple: “You have only 2 people to impress in this church: the Lord Jesus and me.  The people of God will enter into worship at the slightest opportunity; it’s their nature.  As long as your heart is seeking the glory of God and His truth you’ll have His blessing and my support.”

The church must search and try its ways and turn again to the Lord. We must re-examine our Biblical mission; not crowds, not acceptability, not popularity, not reaching a previous standard.  It’s faithfulness to the call of God to bring Him glory.

About Richard L Rice

Just an ordinary, balding, blind guy, making my way to Heaven by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone. Richard L Rice has been an ordained minister since 1986, and pastored 6 churches. A graduate of Multnomah School of the Bible (Portland, OR) and Abilene Bible Seminary (Abilene, KS), Richard is the author of numerous books, including commentaries on Matthew, Romans, the Minor Prophets, and the Pastoral Epistles of Paul. He is the pastor of a congregation in Portland, Oregon, and serves on the faculty of the Berean School of Ministry in Tala, Kenya. He lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife Kimberly and son Daniel. Further details about him can be found written on the pages of his blog.
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1 Response to Harlotry in the Local Church

  1. Ike says:

    The church has become man-centered instead of God-centered…..and the focus is on felt needs instead of God’s glory.

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