When we point out that activist pastors are prone to attack the church, we have to be very clear about what we're saying, lest anyone get the wrong idea.
The church is not above reproach. She is not perfect. She is not even close. She is full of sinners and backsliders. She does some things well, and she gets some things wrong. If we look at the letters to the churches in Revelation, we see that this has always been the case - God Himself even recognizes this.
Because of this, two things are true: first, we should not preach a Christianity that never calls out the church for her shortcomings. Our aim is always to get better at doing what God has called us to do, and that requires being honest about who we are. Second, we should not assume that every pastor who calls out the church is an activist pastor. Many, many pastors over many, many generations have called out the church out of a deep love for her and a desire to see her be authentically more like Jesus.
Where we have to be very aware of what's going on is when we are dealing with activist pastors, and here's how you know:
Activist pastors tend to preach a message in which even Jesus doesn't love His church. In which Jesus is disappointed with us and condemns us for the way we're doing church. In which church seems to be the biggest problem with Christianity. In which the church can do no right.
(On that note, though, a bigger hallmark of an activist pastor is that any church that is not his church can do no right. He's usually very good at claiming that his church is doing all the things that no other church is doing and that every church should be doing and thus, his church should be the church that everyone should try to model and look up to. Do you see how this fits in with his narrative of building a platform for himself? He puts his church on display not only to show you how wrong you're getting it, but to convince you of how right he's getting it. It all feeds into his need to convince you that he looks very much like Jesus so that he can pick the fights he's picking and preach the messages he's preaching that actually testify otherwise.)
The number of Christians who are disappointed in the church right now is staggering. I'm telling you - it's staggering. The number of Christians who believe the church is broken and that not even Jesus loves the church, let alone likes it, is flabbergasting. And it's not because today's church is fundamentally different than churches in the past, no matter how much some of these voices try to tell you that's true (any even coarse reading of church history will tell you it's not); it's because of these activist pastors who have built their platforms on tearing the church down in order to build themselves up, all while claiming a Christ-like humility and preaching a message that affirms that.
It's because when you look for pastors on a social media platform, these guys are the first ones to pop up. They are the ones making the most content. They are the ones getting the most hits. They are the ones who seem like the ones you ought to be following. And then you get sucked in, and if you don't have a solid understanding of who Jesus historically and biblically was, they start very quickly and easily to shape your view of Him.
And now, we have a Christianity that's being torn down from the inside under this big banner that announces that this was God's plan all along, that this is what Jesus would want. But remember what Jesus said? He said not even the gates of Hell would shake His church.
So why are we letting pastors do it?
(We'll continue this conversation into at least part of next week because as I wrote that last paragraph, I realized there was something very important that I still want to say. Something that we have to understand in this context. So stick with us.)