In an era of swirling cultural currents and shifting societal sands, the faithful are urged to stay vigilant. The temptation to forsake the timeless message of the gospel for fleeting trends is ever-present, and one such movement, laden with anti-gospel and anti-Christian undertones, has been gaining traction. Dubbed the “woke” church, this movement poses a threat to the purity of biblical teaching. Those who wish to preserve the sanctity of their congregations must be on guard and learn to recognize the markers of this insidious trend.
The woke church movement and its numerous figureheads—whether it be David Platt, Matt Chandler, Beth Moore, or some obscure progressive preacher you’ve never heard of—often resort to guilt tactics to manipulate their congregants. By insinuating that those who resist their social justice narrative are complicit in perpetuating oppression and inequality, they create a culture of conformity within the congregation. Accusations of being “racist,” “sexist,” “misogynist,” or “homophobic” are intended to silence dissent and shame believers into adopting the woke agenda.
Faithful believers must remain discerning and steadfast in their commitment to biblical truth as they navigate the treacherous waters of today’s ever-changing cultural landscape. By intertwining their understanding of God’s Word with a focus on the eternal hope and unchanging message of Jesus Christ, they can guard their hearts and minds against the corrupting influence of this heresy. Recognizing the markers of this insidious trend is essential for preserving the sanctity of the congregation and standing firm in the gospel’s timeless message. While there are many more, here are five things to look for in these churches and their leaders.
Firstly, pay close attention to the language employed from the pulpit. Woke churches often adopt a lexicon laden with terms like “intersectionality,” “systemic oppression,” and “white privilege,” which can be traced back to Marxist ideologies. While these terms may appear innocuous at first glance to the undiscerning, in reality, they are Trojan horses for introducing divisive, subversive ideas into the church. For instance, a sermon may prioritize dismantling patriarchal structures, subtly discrediting the biblical concept of male spiritual leadership, rather than extolling the virtues of humility and servanthood exemplified by Jesus. Or, a pastor might address topics like microaggressions and cultural appropriation, steering the congregation away from the weightier matters of faith, hope, and salvation.
Other phrases you may hear in a woke church include “social constructs,” “toxic masculinity,” and “implicit bias.” Although these ideas may seem relevant to current cultural conversations, their origins in Marxist thought make them ill-suited for being embraced by Christianity. Even the use of such terminology often leads to congregants feeling overwhelmed by an ever-growing list of sociopolitical concerns, rather than being uplifted by the life-giving message of redemption through Christ’s sacrifice.
Ultimately, while it is true that injustice exists in this world, the focus of biblical teaching should be on the regenerating power of the gospel and the grace of Christ on the cross for all believers. The good news of Jesus Christ and his unyielding mercy for His sheep ought to take center stage in the church, eclipsing any sociopolitical buzzwords that may harbor ill intentions. By placing the teachings of Christ above all else, believers can foster unity and genuine compassion for one another, instead of unwittingly succumbing to the subtle influence of these ungodly political and social ideologies.
The Authority of the Word of God
Secondly, observe the church’s approach to the authority of Scripture. A hallmark of the woke church is its propensity to cherry-pick verses or interpret them in ways that align with a predetermined sociopolitical agenda. When Scripture is twisted or contorted to fit a narrative that prioritizes worldly issues over divine truth, the congregation is led astray. For instance, a woke church might emphasize passages like Luke 4:18-19, which describes Jesus’ proclamation of freedom for the oppressed, while ignoring the true context of this passage in its historical setting and neglecting the broader context of his mission to save souls through his redemptive work on the cross.
Another example could be the selective use of Paul’s exhortation in Galatians 3:28, where he states that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus. In the hands of a woke church, this passage may be employed to promote a radical egalitarianism that undermines biblical teachings on the distinct roles and responsibilities of men and women, as well as the importance of respecting authority structures ordained by God.
These churches may also reinterpret passages like Matthew 25:31-46, which recounts Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats, to advance a social justice agenda at the expense of a proper understanding of the gospel. By focusing solely on the aspect of caring for the poor and marginalized, the woke church may sidestep the essential call to personal repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the means of attaining eternal life.
And arguably one of the most misused passages in the Scripture by church leaders with a social agenda, the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) might be manipulated to advocate for open borders and unrestricted immigration, disregarding the wisdom of maintaining national security and the biblical call for obedience to civil authorities (Romans 13:1-7).
Ultimately, the authority of Scripture must be upheld and respected in its entirety, not distorted to accommodate a particular sociopolitical agenda. When believers stand firmly on the inerrancy and sufficiency of God’s Word, they guard against the subtle snares of deception that can lead the congregation away from the truth of the gospel and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Sin and Repentance
Thirdly, scrutinize the church’s teaching on sin and repentance. Woke churches are often characterized by a subtle shift in emphasis from personal sin to collective guilt. Instead of preaching the need for individual repentance and reconciliation with God through faith in Jesus Christ, these churches may lay the blame for societal ills on entire groups of people, promoting a victim mentality that absolves individuals of their responsibility to turn from sin.
For example, during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) riots, some woke churches might have focused on the historical injustices faced by marginalized communities, attributing blame to particular racial or socioeconomic groups for the unrest. By fixating on these issues, they may have overlooked the deeper spiritual maladies afflicting all of humanity – the sin and brokenness that can only be healed through the redeeming work of Christ.
Another example could involve a church sermon that highlights the concept of generational sin or curses, suggesting that certain individuals are inherently more culpable for the world’s problems due to the actions of their ancestors. This line of reasoning fosters a sense of collective guilt, which can deter people from seeking personal repentance and forgiveness in Christ.
Likewise, some woke churches may magnify the issue of income inequality, attributing the struggles of the poor to the greed and avarice of the wealthy. This narrative breeds resentment and envy, causing division and overshadowing the biblical message of contentment, stewardship, and the transformative power of God’s grace to overcome sin in every aspect of life.
In contrast, Scripture calls for each person to examine their own hearts and turn away from their sinful inclinations, embracing the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. By focusing on individual repentance and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, the church can foster a culture of grace and forgiveness, rather than perpetuating the cycle of blame and victimhood. The true remedy for society’s ills lies not in the condemnation of entire groups, but in the salvific sacrifice of Christ on the cross which brings reconciliation and healing to a lost and dying world.
Sanctity of Human Life
Fourthly, examine the church’s stance on the sanctity of human life. Woke church leaders are often more inclined to focus on social justice issues while downplaying the importance of defending the unborn, the sanctity of marriage, and biblical sexual ethics. We see this regularly with some of the progressive leaders throughout Evangelicalism, even in the Southern Baptist Convention. In their quest for societal transformation, these churches lose sight of the eternal consequences of ignoring God’s design for humanity.
One example of this is the way some will often elevate the economic condition of classes of people to the same level as the lives of the unborn, often referring to it as being “pro-life from the womb to the tomb.” This ill-intentioned platitude denigrates the pro-life movement and guilts people into accepting their social agenda. By conflating issues like poverty and socialized healthcare with the moral imperative to protect the unborn, they dilute the urgency of defending the most vulnerable among us.
Similarly, woke churches may advocate for a redefinition of marriage that strays from the biblical model of a lifelong union between one man and one woman. In their pursuit of cultural relevance, they might embrace alternative family structures that deviate from God’s design, forsaking the sacred institution that serves as a reflection of Christ’s relationship with His church.
Moreover, some woke churches might compromise on biblical sexual ethics, justifying behaviors that Scripture clearly deems immoral and fostering an environment ripe for socio-economic conditions that would lead people to compromise on the sanctity of life, to begin with. They may argue that such concessions are necessary to create an inclusive and welcoming environment, but in doing so, they prioritize the approval of the world over the convictions of faithful Christians.
In contrast, a biblically grounded church must recognize the importance of upholding God’s design for human life, marriage, and sexuality. By adhering to these principles, believers demonstrate their allegiance to the Creator, acknowledging that His ways are higher than our own. It is only through faithful submission to God and obedience to the divinely created order that true healing and sanctification can take place.
Outreach and Evangelism
Lastly, be mindful of the church’s outreach efforts. While community engagement is a laudable goal, woke churches often direct their resources toward advancing a secular agenda under the guise of fighting injustice. As believers, our primary mission is to proclaim the gospel and make disciples of all nations, not to serve as foot soldiers in a temporal crusade for social change.
For instance, a woke church might organize a protest against a perceived social injustice, devoting significant time and resources to this endeavor. While standing against injustice is a noble pursuit, when such activism supersedes the imperative to share the good news of Christ’s love and redemption, it risks leading the church astray from its core mission.
Another example could involve a woke church partnering with secular organizations that promote values or ideologies contrary to biblical teaching. In their eagerness to effect societal change, they compromise their witness by aligning with groups that undermine the gospel, and biblical values such as the sanctity of human life, the family unit, or God’s design for human sexuality.
Woke churches may also prioritize the establishment of social programs and initiatives that, while providing what may appear on the surface to be valuable assistance to those in need, ultimately neglect to address the spiritual hunger that can only be satisfied by the gospel of grace. By focusing solely on meeting physical needs, these churches miss the opportunity to share the eternal hope and spiritual sustenance found in Jesus Christ.
It is essential for churches to remain vigilant in their outreach efforts, ensuring that their primary goal is to proclaim the gospel and make disciples, as instructed by Jesus in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). While engaging with the community and addressing tangible needs can be a valuable expression of Christ’s love, it must not be allowed to overshadow the ultimate mission of the church – to bring the life-changing message of God’s grace and forgiveness to a lost and hurting world.
In navigating these treacherous waters, we must remember that our ultimate allegiance is to the Lord and His Word. By keeping our eyes fixed on the cross and our ears tuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit, we can discern between truth and deception, ensuring that our churches remain beacons of hope in a dark and desperate world.