Report: Live Man Goes to Zombie Church, and Learns a Lesson

I went to church yesterday.

That may sound like an obvious choice for a Christian on a Sunday morning, but I usually worship at home with my family. This Sunday, however, God led me to attend church elsewhere. I settled on Parkway Community Church in Frederick, MD, a church I had driven past many times, but never attended.

The people were friendly. The singing consisted mostly of hymns and Gospel songs instead of fluff-and-nonsense praise and worship songs, accompanied by piano, keyboard and drums. The pastor led the singing, since both the song leader and assistant song leader were on vacation. Then, after prayer-and-praise time, and taking up the collection, it was time for the sermon.

This reporter has been in many churches and heard many sermons over the years. The sermon today was like many that I have heard before. The pastor preached on Matthew 11:25-30:

At that time, Jesus answered, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in your sight. All things have been delivered to me by my Father. No one knows the Son, except the Father; neither does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and he to whom the Son desires to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:25-30)

As the pastor, Dr. Howard Zurley, preached his sermon, I felt as though something was wrong. But I couldn’t pinpoint it. For the most part, everything he said was accurate. Indeed, Jesus reaches out to those who labor and are heavily burdened. Indeed, Jesus gives us rest. Indeed, Jesus’ yoke is lighter than the yoke of bondage to sin, and those who wear it receive the reward of Heaven. Indeed, too, Jesus has told us to “Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don’t be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1)

It was accurate—nothing that I could say was heresy or falsehood. And yet, the pastor seemed to be going on and on without really saying anything.

And then God showed me the answer: the pastor understood the Bible academically, and was preaching a message that was Biblical, yet he was not guided by God. To put it succinctly, the pastor knew about Jesus, but he didn’t know Jesus. He had years of Bible knowledge and could put one verse with another to form a sound message. But he didn’t really understand the yoke of Christ that he was preaching about.

As I left the church, I felt grieved in my spirit. To be honest, it wasn’t as though this was the first time I had experienced such a message. But this time, God had showed me His perspective and crystallized my understanding in a new way.

At the beginning of the sermon, a man from the congregation read the pastor’s text. But he started with verse 24 instead verse 25: “But I tell you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, on the Day of Judgment, than for you.” He stopped, confused, realizing that this was not what the pastor would be preaching about that day.

That was not a mistake. That was God’s message to the congregation today. I know because He told me so. The pastor should have been calling his congregation to repentance before Jesus Christ.

Sadly, I don’t believe there is hope for this church. I do believe that there are sincere believers in Christ who attend there, who will not be part of the harsh judgment prophesied this morning. But they are not part of a living church. They are part of a zombie church—a church led and attended by the walking dead.

ZombiesZombie Christians don’t realize that they’re dead. Like Lazarus, they have been unwrapped and set free. Unlike Lazarus, they have not been raised to life. Or maybe they have died again, yet haven’t been buried. They are walking around, going to church, playing Christian music on the radio, slapping Christian fish symbols on the back of their cars, even going to seminary and getting Doctor of Divinity degrees, but they do not have the life of Christ living within them.

Their sermons are more or less Biblically accurate, yet an atheist could preach them, with about the same impact—because the sermon does not require a personal relationship with Christ. It is not the result of walking with Christ and learning from Him, but the result of academic study of the Word. They take the living words of Jesus and turn them into a dead sermon.

I wish that this was an isolated case. It is not. As I drove home, I realized that Sunday, in America, is not a happy day for God. Certainly, there are living churches and living Christians in whom God rejoices and is glorified. But America is filled with zombie Christians and zombie churches, who preach empty messages and sing empty songs, and grieve the heart of the One who they think that they know.

I had a similar experience listening to Paul Emerson preach at Calvary Mennonite Fellowship in Virginia.  At the time, I didn’t realize everything that I do now, but I sensed that something was wrong. The message was dead. Everything he said was true and good, yet it lacked the power of the Spirit of God. Now I understand. Folks, I’m not going to “pretty it up”: Paul Emerson is a zombie preacher.

It brings me no joy to share this message with you. I was planning to conclude the series on the love of God, but He led me to interrupt it with this report. I wish that I could offer hope and change. And as long as there is physical life, the door is still open for repentance. Some will repent. But many, just as in the days of Jesus’ time on earth, will see God’s mighty works, but fail to yield themselves to Him.

“You, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, you will go down to Hades. For if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in you, it would have remained until today. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, on the day of judgment, than for you.” (Matthew 11:23-24)

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16 thoughts on “Report: Live Man Goes to Zombie Church, and Learns a Lesson

    1. victorycharis said: “I think we should be careful about speaking judgementally of our elders…or anyone for that matter. It seems a little harsh. The Bible speaks about this.”

      Mat 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
      Mat 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
      Mat 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
      Mat 23:16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides,
      Mat 23:17 Ye fools and blind
      Mat 23:19 Ye fools and blind:
      Mat 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
      Mat 23:24 Ye blind guides,
      Mat 23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
      Mat 23:26 Thou blind Pharisee
      Mat 23:29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
      Mat 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers

      Too often we error on the side of caution and allow men to deceive us and others and everyone is afraid to speak judgmentally of them because they are “godly” men. That happened with Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard and many other zombie preachers who have hidden sexual sins in their lives.

  1. I made a similar comment about Ken Ham today. I said he rejects the supernatural of conversion in the same way Bill Nye rejects the supernatural of creation. Of course this did not suit one of my fundamentalist friends well, they called it a lie.

    But we do know profession is different from true faith. And I recall Jesus telling his followers many things to do in their true evangelical faith. And I do not recall Jesus ever saying that we should build an ark or find our answers in Genesis.

    To me Ham’s actions speak louder than his words. However, you say that this man is a zombie even using all of the correct words. Is there a basis other than your own feelings while listening?

    1. “Is there a basis other than your own feelings while listening?”

      To some extent, yes. As I said in the article:

      “Their sermons are more or less Biblically accurate, yet an atheist could preach them, with about the same impact—because the sermon does not require a personal relationship with Christ. It is not the result of walking with Christ and learning from Him, but the result of academic study of the Word. They take the living words of Jesus and turn them into a dead sermon.”

      A zombie preacher knows about Jesus. A live preacher knows Jesus. It makes all the subtle difference in the world.

      Arguably, the zombie preacher doesn’t really use the right words, because his words are a lot of blah, blah, blah about the passage, things that everyone knows, etc.–but they do not come from a deep relationship with Christ. It’s something like the difference between a person who knows by experience what they are talking about, and the person who has read and studied about it, but doesn’t have experience. One has an authentic ring to their words; the other doesn’t.

      But I can’t discount the spiritual angle in all of this. And, of course, it is the spiritual part that is so hard to quantify. Nonetheless, God is a spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. When our spirits are in tune with God’s Spirit, we will sense, to some extent, when others are not communicating by the power of God’s Spirit. And, when others have heard from God, their words, inspired by Him, will resonate in our spirits. (I don’t mean inspired like the Bible.)

  2. Mr. Horst, I read this and was inspired by the passion you have. You see truth and say it plainly, even if it’s not easy. I can see your heart in saying this; you long for a church that is vibrant and alive in Christ, a church that is in tune with the voice of the Spirit and lives out the heart of the Father.

    But, brother, I caution you in your quick judgement of these people. These are also sons and daughters of Abba. They are on a journey that is so much different from yours, but they are on a journey still.

    In the story of the prodigal son, there were TWO sons the Father sought. He ran down the road to meet one, and he left the celebration to seek the older son. Abba does not look down in wrath on his children that have grown lethargic and zombie-like. He still seeks them! He longs for their full heart; he longs to fill them with life.

    You said that there is not hope for Parkway Church. But our God is a God of never-failing hope. As Tolkien said, where there is life, there is hope. Don’t give up hope for these people! If one person, just one, is alive and filled with the spirit, it can change the entire community around them.

    I have been in the place these churches are. I was once a zombie. I was a passionless, lazy, secretly depressed person that called myself a Christian and went to church because it was what everyone else did. I judged those around me that committed the “bad sins” while I ignored my own glaring faults. My heart did not match the faith I professed. But God spoke to me through one person and forever changed me. I am no longer a zombie Christian. I have never been more alive than I am in Christ today.

    Just like there is hope for the prodigal sons, there is hope for the older brother. I know, because I have been the older brother.

    Don’t give up hope for these people. Give them the truth, yes. But don’t forget to love them. That’s how God wins their hearts. God has shown you this because he wants to use you to change them. But you can’t help them change unless your heart breaks for them. Unless you love them, they won’t listen to the truth.

    And keep living out the passion God has given you. Keep listening to the Spirit and speaking the words He gives you. You have the heart of a world-changer.

    1. Tonya, thanks for the kind words and encouragement. I understand your cautions, as well.

      I do not say these things of my own accord. It’s the perspective that God gave to me as I sat in the service, and also in meditating afterwards on what I had seen.

      Perhaps I should have said it this way: I believe that God told me there no hope for this church; that they will eventually die and disappear. This does not mean that every single person there is a zombie, but that the church, as a unit, is a zombie church, led by a zombie pastor. By God’s grace, a few may escape, but the church as a whole will not repent.

      I do not have any anger for this congregation. My heart was heavy for this church as I left and came home. And my heart is grieved for thousands of churches like them across the nation (and indeed, the Western Hemisphere). I have seen some indicators of what is going on behind closed doors, by respected people in the church, and it isn’t pretty. The hidden sin, such as sexual abuse, that is perpetuated by outwardly Godly people, is awful, and I suspect I only know a fraction of the true picture.

      My words sound harsh, and arguably, they are. But I feel that this is a bleak, harsh situation, where revealing the truth appears harsh. It is spoken in love, and hope against hope that somehow, life might still reach down into Parkway Community Church or others like them, and that, in the meantime, the true saints of God will recognize the zombies for what they are.

      1. “Perhaps I should have said it this way: I believe that God told me there no hope for this church; that they will eventually die and disappear.”

        What exactly do you mean by “God told me”. That is a phrase that I believe can have opaque meaning withing Christian terminology.
        Regardless of where you stand, what Biblical support can you share that is held/taught within doctrinal teaching from Scripture that God can tell you something personally while sitting in a building where a service is being held?

        “This does not mean that every single person there is a zombie, but that the church, as a unit, is a zombie church, led by a zombie pastor.”

        What scriptural example can you provide (with consistent exegesis) where a clearer and perhaps more articulate principle of the your use of the word “zombie” is presented?

        “I do not say these things of my own accord. It’s the perspective that God gave to me as I sat in the service, and also in meditating afterwards on what I had seen.”

        This sounds a lot like the words of Christ Jesus when he stated that His word will judge the unbelieving at the last day in John 12:45-49.
        You are dangerously using words that are correlating in function and weight to the Authority of Christ when you’re talking about who has received His word and who has not in the context of what a “zombie church” is in light of the apparent revelation you claim to have received from God about the future of that church.

        1. I’ll let Joel answer for himself, but I’d like to interject that it is normal for God’s children to hear His voice. The Bible is chock full of examples of God speaking to His people, and nowhere does it say we cannot hear Him ourselves. His sheep KNOW His voice. (John 10:4)

          If we rely on “the brotherhood” for wisdom, but the people are not listening to God personally, we may receive common sense advice but we will not receive advice that is uniquely Christian.

        2. “What exactly do you mean by ‘God told me’… what Biblical support can you share that is held/taught within doctrinal teaching from Scripture that God can tell you something personally while sitting in a building where a service is being held?”

          When I say that “God told me”, I’m referring to Him specifically speaking words into my mind, in a way that I know, by experience, comes from Him. As for Biblical support for hearing God, here’s a couple verses:

          “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God. For you didn’t receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'” (Romans 8:14-15)

          [In the church service:] “Let the prophets speak, two or three, and let the others discern. But if a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first keep silent. For you all can prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be exhorted.” (1 Corinthians 14:29-31)

          For more on hearing God speak, please click on Rosina’s name above and check out her series on “Hearing God”.

          “What scriptural example can you provide (with consistent exegesis) where a clearer and perhaps more articulate principle of the your use of the word ‘zombie’ is presented?”

          In Revelation 3:1-4 we find Jesus speaking to a zombie church. Note His words: “And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.”

          Note here that Jesus says that the church is said to be alive, but is dead. Sounds like “the walking dead” to me. Note too, however, that He still offers them repentance–there is still hope if they will repent! They still have some good things that have not yet died. He also says that not everyone in the church is dead. There are a few people in the church who are righteous and are worthy to walk with Him in white.

          As a son of God by adoption (see Romans 8:14-15 above), my Father speaks to me and shows me things. I have every right, as a son of God, to speak what He gives me to say. Moreover, when He tells me to write, I have a responsibility to share what He gives me. He specifically told me to make this post, specifically led me to use the word “zombie”, and specifically led me to name names.

          I am not Jesus, and this blog is not the Bible. The point of “I do not say these things of my own accord” is this: I am not being judgmental. I am not accusing someone of being a zombie because I didn’t like their sermon or preaching style. I wrote these words because I felt led by God to write them.

        3. Last Sunday, we were eating lunch and I asked Joel how the church service was that morning. He lowered his voice and said, “It was dead”. As he talked, I could tell that God had given him spiritual discernment in a way that God had not done before.

          It is important that you evaluate a preacher’s message and discern whether it is a message that God has given him to share or whether it is just a message from a man. It is important that we as Christians follow Christ and not men. If we follow the preacher of our church and God is not giving him the messages to speak, we are following a man rather than Christ.

          As you listen to a sermon, ask God to help you discern where the message came from. Is it something that God has laid on his heart to share? or:
          Is it a focus on the literary aspect of a passage of Scripture, much like an educated person would evaluate a poem – its meaning and the intent of the author?
          Is it a focus on the stories or history aspect of the Bible?
          Is the preacher basically just telling a Bible story?
          Is the message basically the repetition of things that you have already heard over and over, just said a little different?
          Is the message one he made up in his mind, from his education, one he borrowed from a sermon idea book or from the writings of someone else?

          I want to state that what Joel stated about Paul Emerson is true. I have known Mr Emerson for many years.

          George Brunk I handed his mantle and the editorship of the Sword and Trumpet to his son George Brunk II. George Brunk II handed his mantle to Paul Emerson – the pastorate at Calvery Mennonite, the editorship of the Sword and Trumpet, and leadership in the Fellowship of Concerned Mennonites.

          The false teachings and false gospel of these men have negatively impacted the lives of tens of thousands of people. The failures and errors of their teachings are greater and broader in scope than what you have any idea is happening. Sin is running rampant in secret in pious “godly” Mennonite homes, even in the lives of men of renown in the church.

          Many, many Mennonites are secretly hurting and suffering in many ways because of the false teachings of these men. They need to be rescued and helped. They need Christian brothers and sisters to stand with them, defend them, protect them, and support them.

          God has been revealing these things to me and I have been in shock that these things are true and that Mennonites are doing them. I will be sharing with you what God has been revealing to me in my book that hopefully will be coming out later this year titled – The failure of the Great Amish and Conservative Mennonite Dress Experiment. It is 500 pages crammed full. The things I share will be heavily documented. There is a lot of Scripture. It reveals mistakes that we must avoid in the coming revival.

          Jesus warned us over and over to beware of false teachers. When you hear someone indicate that a conservative Mennonite is a false teacher, do not act like conservative Mennonites tend to do and refuse to believe it to be true and attack the message bearer for what he/she said or for how they said it. Note the warning and check things out to see if they are true. If you find enough evidence that the person is not a false teacher then ignore the warning, and share that evidence with the other person.

          As Christians, we need to careful that we do not defend and support false teachers. The eternal consequences for us and for others could be horrific.

  3. Hi, Joel.
    Thanks for you reply.

    I can’t understand how you can read what Paul is talking about
    in Romans 8:14-15 and translate that as a support for hearing God’s
    voice in your mind.

    The whole context of that passage is concerning those who have been saved
    by faith through Christ are no longer slaves to sin. Verses 14-15 have been taken
    out of their context to support your argument. They don’t even apply.

    1 Cor. 14:29-31, is from a passage talking within context of Church protocol
    with the practice of speaking God’s revelation through the gifts of tongues,
    and prophecy TO a congregation in an early Church setting, with specific
    parameters, in a specific manner.
    How do you get the idea of hearing God’s voice in your mind from this passage?
    I mean, are you implying that you actually receive revelation from God exactly
    as being described in this passage? If so, are you saying you’re a prophet?

    I’m afraid both of these verses don’t speak on anything about hearing God’s voice
    in the manner you have appeared to have described in your reply.

    We must be careful with using verses from Scripture that have nothing
    to do with the doctrinal position we defend on any matter. Proper Biblical
    Exegesis is critical and a responsible practice when we are using the Word of God.
    Do you understand the basics of proper Biblical Exegesis?

    You stated in your “About” section of your website,
    “This is the long version of my statement of beliefs:
    A List of God’s Commands in the New Testament” and provided a link to the site.
    Do you hold to everything this website states?
    You agree to all doctrine contained therein?
    I’m just trying to understand your theological background a bit better.

    Thanks again for your reply.

    -Mark

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