False Churches And Their Towers Of Babel

Text: Genesis 11:1-9

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

I am not quite sure why, but we humans sure like to gather around objects. Whether it is a campfire, a coffee table, a Television, a sports field, or a dinner table, we like to establish a central gathering point. We like to have an object or a thing at our center to maintain unity – to keep us together. 

Our reading from the Old Testament book of Genesis tells us of an ancient group of people that liked to do the same thing. And so, like us, they built a city and a tower that would serve as a central point for their unity. We actually call this tower the Tower of Babel.  

We should be clear that there is nothing wrong with gathering around a campfire, coffee table, television, or any other object. It is good when you can roast marshmallows with the family around the fire. It is good to gather around a football field and cheer for a home team. It is good to sip on a coffee and talk with friends around a table. This is all good. However, it can become bad quite quickly when you and I gather around objects, ideas, or things that we fear, love, and trust above the Lord.  

To drive this point home, let’s make this really practical. Let us examine the church.  

What do people gather around at church? What is at the center of the church they attend? 

Now, we should all know the answer to this! As a church, we gather around Christ and His gifts. Yes, Christ and His gifts are the central point of the church. Christ is one whom we fear, love, and trust – so He is indeed at the center.   

But truth be told, not all churches have Christ and His gifts at their center. Furthermore, we must guard ourselves here at St. Paul’s from believing that we could never mess this up. (Keep in mind it only took the churches in Galatia 3 years to abandon the Gospel and gather around a false gospel. They went from being Christian Churches to apostate in 3 years.)  

So, what do churches wrongly gather around, so we might be alert and aware? What are their Towers of Babel?  

From my estimations, there are at least 7-9 towers in the American church. Yes, there are 7-9 things, objects, and ideas that churches gather around that are not Christ.  

For example, here at St. Paul’s, we may be tempted to want to gather around the tower of entertainment. You see, the temptation is to want to come to church to be impressed. In this kind of church, the pastor needs to be a celebrity. The accompanists need to be performers. Those attending must gather to have their lives energized, stimulated, and invigorated. The goal will be to go to church and say, 

“Church was really special today; I was so engaged; everyone did great. I am energized! I can’t wait for next week.”   

Dear Baptized Saints, you don’t need a church to entertain you, for Christ does not dance or throw popcorn but bled and died. 

We may also be tempted here at St. Paul’s to want to gather around the tower of emotions. The temptation may be to want to come to church to have a spiritual high or an emotional experience. In this kind of church, the pastor must string you along with emotional sermons meant to make you laugh or cry. The music must make you feel closer to God as the music moves through your soul. The goal will be to go to church and say, 

“Church was wonderful today; I felt God. The music moved me.” 

Dear Baptized Saints, God did not love the world so much that he felt fuzzy. No, God loved the world that He sent Jesus – and Jesus did not feel for us, but He died and rose for us.  

We may be tempted to gather here at St. Paul’s around the tower of self-help pointers. The temptation may be to come to this church for practical advice from the pastors. In this kind of church, the pastor needs to be like a life coach who gives practical improvement - pointers to have better finances, more sex, and better careers. The goal will be to go to church and say, 

“I can’t wait to go home and put these pointers into practice. I can’t wait to hear part 2 of the sermon so I can improve in my job and family.” 

Dear Baptized Saints, as much as it is good to improve your life with good pointers, you will need more than a tower of improvements on the last day. You will need a rock to fall upon. – you will need Christ.  

You and I may be tempted to gather here at St. Paul’s around the tower of politics. The temptation may be to come to church to be fed political talking points and learn political strategies to fix the world. The pastor is expected to be a politician in the pulpit and the parishioner to be pundits ready to engage the culture with political strategy. And so, the goal will be to go to church and say, 

“I am so glad that the Pastor always takes on the other political party. I am so glad that the pastor engages on all the issues I hear on the news. I’m glad we are politically engaged.”

Dear Baptized Saints, Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. Do not put your trust in politicians and political towers that cannot save you.  

Last but certainly not least, we may be tempted to gather here at St. Paul’s around the tower of heritage and friends. The temptation is to want to come to church to gather for social reasons or to uphold the LCMS heritage. In this kind of church, the pastor is an event coordinator or a historical tour guide, and parishioners gather to get their weekly social fix and talk about the good old days. The goal will be to go to church and say, 

“It was fun to see so many familiar faces. It was so much fun to go to church and catch up on old times.”

Dear Baptized Saints, the church is not primarily a social network or a weekly family reunion. As good as friendships and heritage are, you need more than ancient memories and a friend; you need a living Savior.  

Now, we could go on with several other examples – churches that gather around social justice, programs, humanitarian issues, etc. The kind of Towers of Babel that we construct in the church and the marketplace of ideas are endless.  

Again, there is nothing wrong with gathering around objects, ideas, and things. However, when we fear, love, and trust these things above Christ, or when they take the place of Christ in the church, well… we have a problem. And that problem is quite easy to define.  

Baptized Saints, the original Tower of Babel has fallen. It does not remain standing today. God confused the language of those at Babel. And the tower of Babel no longer exists because the endeavors, missions, and goals of mankind are like dust. They whither. They fade. And so, any church that gathers around a Tower of Babel – whatever it is – will not stand. It will not endure. A church with a tower that is not Christ is sinking sand. 

This is why the Holy Spirit does what He does in our reading from Acts and the Gospel of John. In other words, never forget Baptized Saints that the Holy Spirit is the One who creates the church. The Holy Spirit is the One who calls you, enlightens you, and gathers you – not to entertainment, emotions, self-help pointers, politics, friends, programs, and humanitarian issues. He calls you by the Gospel to Christ and His Gifts. 

Baptized Saints mark this; the Holy Spirit creates the church by calling Christians around Jesus and only Jesus. So, know this: a church not gathered around Christ is not a Christian Church and does not have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not peddle entertainment, programs, emotions, and a thousand other things our world clamors about. The Holy Spirit gathers you around Christ and keeps you with Christ as He sanctifies you in Christ.  

He does this because, unlike all the falling towers of the world and falling towers of false churches, your Christ will never wither nor fade. He is not like a tower that will fall. He has existed before time and will exist after time. He is the beginning and the end. He has all rule and all authority on heaven and earth. And so, it just makes plain good sense that we gather around One that we can truly fear, love, and trust.  

May the Holy Spirit keep you and this church – St. Paul’s – always anchored to Christ and His gifts. May the Holy Spirit keep you and me centered on Christ and Christ alone. May the Holy Spirit keep us in the one true faith until we are raised from the dead and given eternal life on the last day.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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