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The Great Falling Away Has Begun

The Great Falling Away Has Begun

Scripture says that as we approach the last days, we can expect to see more and more people falling away from the faith. Many who claim to be Christians and love God will deny Him and withdraw from all kingdom activity.

I believe this falling away has already begun and that the recent season of COVID-19 became a turning point prophetically. I heard a lot of people saying, “I really don’t think I need church anymore.” For some people, COVID was just the excuse they were looking for to detach from what had become little more than a spiritual routine. They were coasting, and when their church went virtual, it was easy to simply drift away. Others had better intentions but similar results. They continued to get up every weekend, watch a streamed church service from the comfort of their sofas—perhaps still in pajamas—and then go about their day. But after a couple of months, it wasn’t every weekend. And the music just wasn’t the same when it wasn’t live. And the neighbors mowing their lawns and splashing in their pools were distractions during the message. And eventually they stopped making any effort at all. Although their “falling away” took longer, it was just as real, and it was just as much a loss to the kingdom.

In April 2020, shortly after the COVID restrictions were imposed, I was in a gathering of about three hundred pastors where all of us were trying to figure out how to respond. Most of us decided to reopen on May 31. The consensus was that we didn’t want to keep our church doors closed any longer than necessary. And since May 31 was also Pentecost Sunday, we felt that day was an appropriate time to ask for the movement of the Spirit of God in our churches.

But not everyone was on board. I talked to a couple of young pastors at the gathering who had recently started a church. They told me, “Everything’s working so well online that we’re never going to go back live, even after they lift the restrictions.” I asked them why not, and they said, “Well, we found that we’re just as effective. People are still giving. So why would we go through all the trouble?” When pastors of churches find that it’s too much trouble to open their doors to the people of their community, that’s a falling away.

Some of you reading this might suggest I’m being judgmental. After all, didn’t Jesus say, “Judge not, that you be not judged”? (Matt. 7:1). Yes, but a few verses later He also said, “Beware of false prophets.…A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matt. 7:15, 18-20). And adding to that concern, John wrote in his first letter:

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. —1 JOHN 2:18-19

Believers are challenged not to judge one another, yet to also keep our eyes open to leaders who might mislead us, whether intentionally or not. We aren’t being judgmental when we attempt to discern between someone who is speaking God’s truth and someone who is promoting a practice or doctrine against the clear teaching of Scripture.

We need to get better at that. In fact, I believe the recent great falling away is due largely to excessive tolerance of sin among believers. No one likes to be called judgmental. We (rightly) want to be considered loving, compassionate, tolerant, and Christlike, yet when dealing with someone embroiled in blatant sin with no indication of ever changing, tolerance is not the answer. We are called to not only “walk as children of light,” but also to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5:8, 11, emphasis added). The church is called to excise sin from the body and continue to grow spiritually. Those who don’t risk falling away.

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