You love your church!
It’s attracting college kids and young families. It’s “on fire,” and your numbers are up.
Your worship band has a couple of hipster guys with tattoos and a gauge or two that used to jam with professional musicians. The old pipe organ’s been removed and replaced with “killer sound and lights.” The whole stage is black now.
Your teaching team is young. They wear untucked shirts and faded jeans, and they tell lighthearted stories and funny jokes that crack up the college crowd every week.
You’re pleased with how your church deals with the Bible’s tough subjects. It mostly avoids them. It doesn’t preach anything too deep since “there are lots of interpretations.” Instead, your church generally feels the Bible is of and for the community. It’s a collection of human responses to God, and so the Bible is dynamic, encouraging, and non-judgmental.
Your church is a place where everybody feels welcome. It’s “affirming and inclusive.” You can come as you are and leave as you were. No problem.
It’s a church that believes the Gospel is in every passage and each verse is “all about Jesus.” The sermons aren’t too long. They mostly focus on social themes because “we all need more community, more tolerance, more equality, more love, more diversity, and more grace.”
You can bring your unsaved friends to your church. They won’t hear about judgment, God’s wrath, and eternal punishment in the flames of hell. Some of your leadership isn’t convinced there’s a literal hell anyways since “the Bible doesn’t always mean what it says.”
There’s no pressure to repent, and you don’t have to worry that your friends’ personal choices will be confronted. It’s all about “having a conversation” instead.
Awkward topics like one way to heaven, two genders, three parts of the Trinity, four horsemen of the apocalypse, five resurrections, six days of creation, seven years of Tribulation, eight people on the ark, nine gifts of the Holy Spirit, and ten virgins are typically avoided in your church. Besides, “they probably should be.” The “times have changed,” and some of that stuff doesn’t really fly anymore. A couple of those notions are ridiculous too – “science has proven that.”
Your church is friendly and nonconfrontational. That’s why the New Testament is the primary source of sermons by far since “it’s all about grace.” Your leaders believe that “God is focused on the church now,” and it’s about “what we are doing for God’s kingdom.”
Stuffy worship traditions have been replaced with fresh ideas. The choir’s gone. There are no hymnals or special music selections, and the communion wafers are gluten-free. There’s even a funky little coffee shop and some original art in the welcome area – the décor is now “more inviting and accepting.”
It’s cool that your church wades into politics since “it’s important to be socially responsible.” Your leaders don’t like “mean tweets.” They talk openly about “the problems of systemic racism” and the church’s responsibility to “comply with government mandates.” They’ve said very little about Roe v. Wade being overturned because they want to be sensitive to various opinions within their congregation.
Your church leadership supports “green policies” to protect the planet. They’re doing their part with their e-bulletins, eco-cups, and their new composting program. Your church also supports masks, open borders, gun control, voting rights, interfaith fellowship, BLM, ACC, BDS, DEI, CRT, DSA, – and of course, LGBTQIA.
Yep, you love your church. It’s culturally sensitive, it’s open-minded, it’s eco-friendly, it’s nontraditional – and it’s totally you.
I need to be direct. Your church is “woke.”
That’s not a good thing. To be candid, your church is in a very bad spot. Spiritually, it’s no longer alert. It’s conformed to worldly postures and persuasions much more than it admits, and it’s unaware of its true condition.
It’s often more obsessed with what it doesn’t want to be than it’s burdened by what it’s called to be. That’s why your church has made consecutive choices to go in wrong directions. It’s lost the capacity – and will – to understand it’s done this.
Your church is “woke” because it supports behaviors and ideas that find their roots in a godless agenda. It defends political correctness even as it strays from a literal interpretation of God’s Word. Your leadership feels self-righteous for “exposing racism, patriarchy, and heteronormativity” – and they feel affirmed when their positions align with mainstream media.
Because “wokeness” is shaped by Critical Race Theory and other close kin systems of thought, those who are “woke” have convinced themselves that they’re more aware of the true nature of our society. A “woke” church is an extension of that dynamic, and it will try to manipulate the convictions and choices of those within it. It nurtures a bias against anyone who responsibly teaches the full counsel of God’s Word. Since it believes it sees what others fail to see, a “woke” church isolates – and scolds – those who point out its errors.
Bluntly put, a woke church is one that doesn’t really care if you can back it up with the Bible. They will refuse to see the situation this way, but their feelings, desires, and emotions often override what Scripture says. It’s more important for a “woke” church to support government mandates, to parrot media talking points, and to lament “social injustices” in order to be – and to stay – “woke.”
Their actions reveal their motives. A “woke” church wants to do what others do – and be what others are.
That is why a “woke” church tends to publicly sympathize with relativism-rich liberal values far more than conservative ones. “Woke” church leaders feel deep down inside that Jesus would identify more with the left-leaning spectrum.
The truth is the rapid changes within our cultural paradigms are much more a test of your church’s grounding in the doctrines of Scripture than they are an opportunity for it to be “community-minded,” “racially sensitive,” or “environmentally conscious.” A “woke” church has fundamentally failed that test.
I’ll continue to be direct here. Your church is asleep.
I want to be 100% clear. The Bible instructs believers to be “awake” – not “woke” (1 Thess. 5:6). The two concepts – one Scriptural and one secular – are countless miles apart. The words seem similar, but they’re saying opposite things. It’s dangerous to be on the wrong side of this important distinction.
Paul warned the church, “Don’t sleep as others do.” His instructions were for the last days. He urged it instead to stay alert, awake, and sober. He was concerned that during deceptive times like those we live in now, the church would embrace worldly views and values.
It’s why he instructed the church to be different than the culture it was in, and it’s why he cautioned the church against the temptation to become careless in its spiritual disciplines. Paul did not want the church to do what others do – or to be what others are.
Unfortunately, if Paul were alive today, he’d concur with famed Welsh preacher Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who often railed against the “superficial” church. Paul would’ve probably agreed with AW Tozer, who wrote that if the Holy Spirit were completely withdrawn from the Church, “95 percent of what we do would go on, and no one would know the difference.” That’s because the church today is asleep.
In the eschatological parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-13), a tragedy is presented, and it concerns a final time that is approaching. While this parable is directed to Israel, it holds an overarching truth for those who claim to be part of the body of Christ. That truth is this: there is grave danger in being spiritually indifferent or unaware concerning the times in which we live.
Jesus said, “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all (the wise and the foolish virgins) became drowsy and fell asleep” (v5). In the terminal chapters of human history, there will be those who have every good reason to remain awake and watchful – but their spiritual senses will be dulled instead.
They will not perceive what’s going on around them because they won’t care enough to. As a result, they’ll sense no urgency and raise no alarm. They won’t be prepared. Rather than being wise enough to change their choices and habits, they will drift along in foolish compliance with those who are in the dark. They will be asleep.
In the letter to the church in Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6), Jesus issues a prophetic rebuke to the church as it stands upon the very threshold of His coming “like a thief” (v3). Jesus commands it to “Wake up!” (v2). It was a church that claimed a “reputation of being alive,” but it was dead instead (v1). It’s easy to see a direct parallel with the condition of the church now.
It’s clear what Jesus Christ would say about the modern church – particularly those congregations which are more or less described in the opening portions of this article. He’d say they are asleep.
A “woke” church is no more awake by Biblical standards than it is “on fire and growing” by any measure of the same. This is plain when we see some of the qualities of a church that is asleep and when we understand how this comes to be.
For starters, a church that’s asleep is one that diminishes – or does not properly understand – the prophetic Word of God. It’s not a priority for them. This connection is made clear in multiple Bible passages, including those noted earlier. There is a direct link between prophetic passiveness and personal peril.
Paul – as we see – was concerned that the church of Thessalonica might become asleep. To prevent this, he taught them prophecy. His time with them was brief, as Acts 17:2 may suggest, and he followed that visit up with the letters we call 1 & 2 Thessalonians. It’s here that things get interesting.
Word had come to Paul that apostate teachings had entered the young Thessalonian church, heresies that conflicted with what he’d taught them. Chapter two of 2 Thessalonians dives into the problem, and it concerns the second coming of Jesus Christ. Paul dispenses a healthy portion of meat in this chapter, but he asks in 2 Thessalonians 2:5, “Don’t you remember when I was with you, I used to tell you these things?”
It’s easy to overlook the layout of this situation, but here it is:
Number one, the Thessalonian church was new in its faith and organization. Number two, Paul didn’t have much time with them, but he used what he had to emphasize the themes of prophecy. Number three, Paul specifically taught them about Christ’s Second Advent, about the Antichrist, about the Rapture, and about the Great Tribulation. And number four, Paul did all this to protect and nourish this little church.
It’s that last point I want to pay special attention to. In the fuller context, we see Paul’s antidote for “not sleeping as the others do” was to teach Bible prophecy.
The doctrines surrounding Christ’s return are precisely those things that equip believers against falling prey to cultural deceptions. These specific Biblical truths are there – among other reasons – to keep believers alert and awake.
Said another way, responsibly teaching the prophetic Scriptures helps to preserve a church against going “woke.” It plays a major role in keeping a church from becoming lukewarm and self-deluded and from evaluating itself by the world’s standards (Rev. 3:14-22).
In all ways, a church that provides a diet of sound Bible prophecy is one that is properly “equipping the saints” (Eph. 4:12).
But many churches don’t want the very thing they most need. They reject it. It’s in 2 Peter 3:3-4 where the tragic reality of today’s “woke and asleep” church is perfectly described. It’s in this passage where we see a church doing two things – with the first action resulting in the second one.
The first thing such a church does is it mocks the importance of Biblical prophecy, especially any theme that centers on Christ’s imminent return. Doubt and derision are clear as the church asks, “Where is this coming He promised?” Despite multiple clear teachings on the pre-Trib Rapture in God’s Word, the tragic fact is only 36% of pastors today believe this doctrine, according to a 2016 study by LifeWay Research. I’m betting that number’s even less in 2022.
The second thing a church that scoffs at Bible prophecy does is it decides to pursue a different focus. Part B of 2 Peter 3:4 describes a church that chooses to emphasize “the way things are.” This verse makes it clear that the antithesis of studying and understanding the doctrines of Bible prophecy is becoming preoccupied with themes that are more about “everything continuing as it has,” – or the way they choose to see things instead.
A church like that will claim to adhere to God’s Word even as it sets aside almost 30% of its content which is devoted to prophecy. A church like that will promote worship and sermons that splash endlessly in the shallow end of the pool. A church like that will utterly fail to grasp the hard-hitting truths that so many believers are starving for today. A church like that will defend the choices of a depraved culture, will adopt its foolish language and values, and will promote the deceptions of a godless agenda.
What a church like that will NOT do is it “will not tolerate sound doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:3). Rather, it will seek out and place into positions of leadership those individuals who keep things “as is,” who often lack proper gifting, and who have not adequately demonstrated that they have a strong Biblical foundation.
They do know how to “scratch itching ears,” though. They do know how to “turn away from the truth,” and they’re great at playing the game to keep the status quo.
In other words, they’re exactly what’s needed to keep a church “woke” rather than “awake.”