One Small Hiccup:

Chip Brogden’s The Church in the Wilderness

Neil Girrard
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Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Gen. 2:17 π Gen. 3:22 π Gen. 6:3 π Psa. 91:1 π Mt. 4:4 π Mt. 7:23 π Mt. 13:38 π Mt. 13:41 π Mt. 16:18 π Mt. 18:3 π Mt. 18:6-7 π Mt. 24:10-11 π Mt. 25:6 π Mk. 10:18 π Mk. 10:42-43 π Lk. 24:5 π Jn. 15:5; 2nd π Rom. 7:18; 2nd π 1 Cor. 3:17 π 1 Cor. 5:9-11 π 1 Cor. 5:11 π 1 Cor. 10:21 π 2 Cor. 2:11 π 2 Cor. 6:14 π 2 Cor. 6:17 π Eph. 4:13 π Eph. 5:11 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π 2 Ths. 2:11-12 π 1 Tim. 4:1 π 2 Tim. 3:5 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4 π Heb. 5:12-14 π Heb. 11:6 π Heb. 13:13 π Jas. 1:17 π Jas. 4:8 π 2 Pet. 2:1-2 π 2 Pet. 2:22 π 1 Jn. 1:7 π 1 Jn. 1:9 π 1 Jn. 2:21 π 1 Jn. 4:16 π 3 Jn. 9 π Rev. 2:6 π Rev. 14:4 π Rev. 17:1 π Rev. 17:5 π Rev. 18:4 π Rev. 20:13 π Rev. 22:11
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from The Church in the Wilderness, Chip Brogden, The School of Christ, 2011.

Picture yourself on a 200 mile journey. The car you are driving is a beauty with a smooth and powerful engine and a well-lubricated and well-maintained chassis and drive-train. The road is scenic and the weather is superb. But near the end of the journey, about 20 miles from your destination, the engine “hiccups” and the car lurches. It lasts only a moment but the rest of your journey is spent anxiously listening for odd sounds from the motor as you try to recall if there had been any other clues you might have missed and wonder if the last few miles of your journey might turn into a hike.

The Church in the Wilderness is just such an experience. It is by any measure one of the best and clearest written books containing the revelations the Lord has been giving to His people who have exited the “church.” Anyone who is experiencing this exodus or the trek through the wilderness that follows it will find much clarity, confirmation and edification.

But near the end of the book, there is suddenly a “hiccup” and the smooth ride momentarily turns bumpy. The ride smoothes out and no further bumps are encountered but the journey is marred nonetheless.

This “hiccup” occurs on page 182 – any writer tackling this subject who can get to page 182 without any spiritual “hiccups” at all and who then finishes the book without any further mishap has done an excellent work! Nor should it be overlooked that a “hiccup,” when recognized and corrected, is only a minor deficiency. Only when left undiagnosed and unaddressed can it develop into a serious malfunction. It is certainly no reason to not get or not read the book – the book, apart from this one short “hiccup,” is well worth the read!

Brogden writes:

“There are some good things about church. I’m not going to take the extreme position that there is nothing good about it. If it were that bad no one would want to be a part of it. But the majority of people still get something out of church, and I have come to the conclusion that spiritual babies still need a safe place to play and drink their milk and get their dirty diapers changed. You find that most people who have left the church do not hate everything about their former church. Most of them say they still love the people, and are concerned for the people. They miss something of the fellowship they once thought they had. And sometimes they miss it so much that they go and visit other churches, trying to fit in, trying to find a place. But try as they might, something in them just cannot go along with it any more.” (p. 182-183 – emphasis in original)

The “Hiccup”

Perhaps what is most out of place about this “hiccup” paragraph is that it is so physically or naturally oriented in contrast to the rest of this book which is of such a visibly high caliber of spiritual insights that are the results of receiving divine revelation. What facts that are presented here are done so from the people’s point of view and no spiritual explanation of these statements is offered. Let us consider these statements one at a time.

”Church” is almost entirely about forsaking the commandments of God so as to walk under the traditions, precepts and commandments of men. “Church” is the place where dogs are expected to return to their vomit and pigs to wallow again in their mud (so long as it doesn’t leave any stains on the “church” carpet, of course – see 2 Pet. 2:22; top ) One gets tired of being a pig and a dog rather quickly once one has seen anything of the reality of Christ.

The Source of the “Hiccup”

So where does this “hiccup” come from? Brogden says it rather clearly in this paragraph:

“I’m not going to take the extreme position…” (p. 182)

This is a willful choice on his part. He has chosen to believe something that, as we have seen above, simply does not line up with the truths revealed in the Bible.

Brogden also says:

“I have come to the conclusion…” (p. 183)

Here he admits that this is his own rational and reasoned conclusion. Brogden himself recognizes the fallacy of relying solely on reason in contrast to divine revelation yet here he commits the very same error.

There is yet a deeper aspect to this “hiccup” that we need to consider. Paul wrote, “That day [of Christ’s return and reign] will not come until the falling away [apostasy] comes first…” ( 2 Ths. 2:3 ) Other prophecies show that the falling away involves many (not a few) who are deceived because they do not love the truth. ( Mt. 24:10-11 , 2 Ths. 2:11-12 ) These will “heap up” teachers (“pastors,” “prophets,” “apostles,” whatever titles these pulpiteers and talking heads take to themselves) that soothe and stimulate the listeners’ ears – but the message will be myths, fables, lies. ( 2 Tim. 4:3-4 ) These false teachers secretly and stealthily introduce destructive divisions that takes away the headship of Christ - many will follow them and the real way of truth is maligned. ( 2 Pet. 2:1-2; top ) This is the “church”!

In all of Brogden’s book, the idea of the falling away from the faith as a prophesied event is not even mentioned just as the role of Babylon as the great prostitute is not mentioned. Nowhere in the book is the idea put forth that all these deeply subtle deceptions are the result of Satan’s war against the Most High God. We are left to believe that these things just happened because men just did all these things all by themselves.

Brogden’s background in churchianity was the Charismatic movement (p. 46) which indeed suffers from an over-emphasis on the work of the demonic. Though Brogden says “It is true that we cannot afford to be ignorant of satan’s devices…” (p. 48 – see 2 Cor. 2:11 ), to write such a book as this without even mentioning the source of all the deceptions that abound at “church,” combined with his apparent refusal to capitalize “satan” hints at why Brogden doesn’t recognize the “church” for what it is – the apostasy, the great falling away from the faith that God has allowed to come to be so that men would have to choose to follow either Christ and God or to follow whatever is right in their own eyes. It is the same choice that Adam had – to eat of the Tree of Life or of the Tree of the (independent) Knowledge of Good and Evil. (see Gen. 2:17 , 3:22; top )

The Adjustment

It is to be hoped that, should The Church in the Wilderness ever be sent to reprint or e-publishing in the future, that this “hiccup” paragraph would be replaced with something like the following:

It will be a great day in the Lord when we can recognize that in the church there is no good thing – just as there is no good thing in us. (see Rom. 7:18 ) Any good thing we have encountered in churchianity we must certainly attribute to God’s gracious presence in our carnal, “mixed multitude” assemblies, assemblies most often gathered in misunderstanding, error or even enmity against God’s purposes. The small foretastes of love and fellowship we gleaned there, though often tainted with deception and hidden ulterior motives, were indeed heavenly and we need to recognize that they were designed, not to confirm us in where we were at but rather to call us on to still purer expressions of love and fellowship, both toward God and one another. When we are no longer desiring to be “fed” but instead desire to share our life in Christ with others younger in the faith, the babies and children will no longer need to be sent off to the churches as if those were safe day-care centers. Babies and children can be – as they ought to be – sheltered and instructed by each of us who have Christ’s life within us in an environment of genuine love and compassion. We need not look back in misplaced nostalgia to the days of our time in churchianity – indeed many who have escaped or fled labor long and hard to be certain we’re not dragged back into yet another version of it. Rather, we must look back in gratitude to God for every instance of goodness we’ve experienced and press on ahead to the fuller, more mature expressions of goodness that can come through cleansed, purified and mature yielded vessels. This is what we were all called to all along and it is necessary, now more than ever, to shake off every façade and deception of churchianity.

After the “hiccup” paragraph, Brogden goes on to an excellent conclusion – pointing out the differences between reformation, revival and repudiation. (p. 200-205) When one recognizes that the “church” is the visible expression in our time of Babylon, the great prostitute, it is easy to see that seeking reformation of the “church” is futile. When one recognizes that the “church” is a corpse that has been dead for centuries, it is easy to see that revival (resuscitation) is futile. Indeed, all that is left is to repudiate or reject all that is of “church,” flee “out of the camp” of men’s religious counterfeits ( Heb. 13:13 ) and keep ourselves pure and follow the Lamb wherever He leads us. ( Rev. 14:4; top ) Brogden’s “hiccup” is quite contradictory to his own instruction to repudiate the things of “church.”

Brogden’s “hiccup” paragraph, being the product of his own choices, understanding and reasoning, mars an otherwise nearly flawless work of spiritual insights and wisdom. As with all books written about our life in Christ, we must “eat the meat and spit out the bones.” With The Church in the Wilderness there seems to be only this one missed bone. (Brogden’s other excellent book suffers in a similar but far lesser way for the same reasons – see Embrace the Cross, p. 160-161)

Brogden wrote,

“Other men and women of God have seen these things in the past, but many would not speak of them openly and freely. They would only go so far and in many cases they were still very much a part of the religious system, still trying to reform it or calling it to repent. Someone like A.W. Tozer, who was a prophetic voice to his generation, yet still operated as a pastor within the religious system. That may have been acceptable in that generation, and in that season.

“But we are in a different season now. The spirit of Religion is worse, darker, and more deceptive than ever. The days when you could be a part of that system and try to speak against it are over.” (p. 209)

Brogden is absolutely correct – this is the word of the Lord for this season. The cry to “Come out and meet the Bridegroom!” ( Mt. 25:6 ), the call to come out from all forms of “Christian” idolatry and idolaters ( 2 Cor. 6:17 , 1 Cor. 5:11 ) and the call to come out of Babylon lest we share in the consequences of her sins ( Rev. 18:4 ) are more persistent now than ever. The spirit of false religion is worse, darker and more deceptive than ever. Whole “churches” practice blatant and open abominable sin but still proclaim to experience the spiritual presence and blessing of “God.” “Pastors” and ex-“pastors” preach and write books under the guidance of spirits who take them into “enlightenment” and spiritual experiences that have nothing to do with Christ and which contradict the Bible. “Deacons” frankly express their hatred for various people groups and wish that God would annihilate them and send them all to hell. “Spiritual fathers” call themselves God’s “set man” (the one God has set in authority over other believers – see Mk. 10:42-43; top ) and parade themselves as “super-apostles” set in place around the globe to usher in a new apostolic order and season and demand special treatment and respect whenever they bring their “word of the Lord” to town. All this and much, much more is done in the name of the Lord at “church.”

The Light too is much brighter now. The things Brogden writes of are becoming common knowledge among those who have come out and who have ears to hear and eyes to see and a heart that yearns after God. These revelations and insights will become even more widespread among those who have fled from the apostasy, the “church,” and still even more so among those whom these faithful ones and twos will disciple.

This is precisely why Brogden’s “hiccup” – his personal opinion and conclusion – is not acceptable either. There is nothing good about “church” except for the wonderfully miraculous fact that God met us there, often in spite of its flaws and even enmity against God. Apart from the covering and protection of God, which is extended only to those who obey Him or who are too immature to be anything but ignorant, the “church” is a minefield designed to maim, cripple and even kill the spirit and soul of all those who come through the doors. There is no reason – apart from a direct leading of God – to ever attend a “church” and even then God’s purpose will never be to reform or revive or support that which is abominable or dead. His will be a call to “come out” of the wicked, abominable and demonic practices and be separate, different, holy unto God. Any refusal to come fully out and any excusing of the sins, errors and wickedness of the “church” will only act as a snare to draw us back under one or more of its subtle deceptions.

The time in which we may remove all traces of the tares from our own lives is short – soon “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who practice lawlessness [what is right in their own eyes].” ( Mt. 13:41 ) The word of the Lord in this season is: “Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” ( Rev. 22:11 ) The Spirit of the Lord will not contend with man endlessly for man is corrupted. (see Gen. 6:3 ) Fill up then the measure of your judgment or reward and know that the consequences of your choice are yours alone. Chose this day whether you will be a tare, a son of the devil, or a wheat, a son of Christ’s kingdom. (see Mt. 13:38 ) But don’t ever believe that God doesn’t know which you really and truly are and be certain that He will be faithful to judge you according to what you have done. ( Rev. 20:13 , etc.; top)

Let he who has ears hear.

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