The Preaching Crisis
I pray that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in the sight of God and a blessing to every reader of this article.
Today, the religious world lies in a state of confusion and unrest. From the ranks of Catholicism arise the cries of rebellion and dissent. The Presbyterians have had their problem which resulted in a major division. The Methodists seem to continue on their downward trend. Just recently in Atlanta, Georgia the United Methodist Church voted 925 to 17 to accept a document, prepared by Albert C. Dutler, Chairman of the Commission, to help Methodist make all theological decisions based on "Scriptures, traditions, experience and reason. " In other words, "goodbye Bible" as an infallible guide.
The Southern Baptists have had their battles and division over the verbal inspiration of the Bible and the errors of the Broadman Bible Commentary. At any rate, the Southern Baptists have had their problems and religion in general finds itself in a state of confusion. Theological seminaries are spending more time trying to determine how much of the Bible they wish to classify as myth and how much as truth. According to a reported survey, only about 1% of the theological students believe in the "second coming" of Christ. Also, a questionnaire was sent to 10,000 Protestant preachers in 1967. Of that number, 7,444 of the preachers replied to the questions. The results are shocking! 51% of the Methodist preachers, 35% of the Presbyterian preachers, and 33 %of the Baptist preachers said they did not believe that Jesus arose from the dead. 60% of the Methodist, 49% of the Presbyterian, and 44% of the Baptist denied the Virgin birth of Christ. 62 %of the Methodist, 47% of the Presbyterian, and 33% of the Baptist denied the existence of Satan. 82% of the Methodist, and 81% of the Presbyterians did not believe the Bible to be inspired. these are the figures of a reported survey.
While confusion runs rampant through Sectarianism, its absence is by no means felt among our brethren. In the past months much has been said about the work of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. Others have advocated fellowship with the denominations. Our "brotherhood" papers, among the liberals, are telling of numerous preachers from the conservative (?) Christian churches, changing over, whatever that means. Others tell of people out of the Christian church placing membership, whatever that is, in the Lord's church. I am made to wonder; what ever happened to sinners being "converted" or "obeying the gospel"? One such publication tells of an annual Preachers' Workshop at Abilene Christian College which features a professor from Cincinnati Bible Seminary, a Christian church preacher. After the Workshop, when the preachers present were canvassed as to whom should be invited to future gatherings, the "brother" from Cincinnati was a top choice to return for a repeat performance. Well, "brother" is the term used in the article, but all my brethren are in the Lord's family, the church of Christ. The church of Christ and the Christian church are two separate families, each having a different head or spiritual father, one the God of heaven, the other the Devil of Hell (John 8:42, 44, 47). Unless, I am ready to claim kin to Satan, I cannot declare those of the Christian church my brethren!
In the same publication, Leroy Garrett tells of a Church of Christ (?) with a gathering of 600 people who gave a Roman Catholic priest a standing ovation in California. And then to top it all off, we had the "Highland Watergate" scandal and coverup. In the midst of all this, the world rushes madly onward, not knowing its right hand from its left spiritually, helpless, hapless and hopeless, destined for the eternal fires of a burning hell! The world gropes in darkness while religion sits in a state of decay.
We are told today, that there are 123 million church-goers in the United States which is an increased attendance of 2%, but in the same period of time we had an increase in crime of 7%. Illegitimacy has increased 100%. Pornography has become a 200 million dollar-a-year business; multiplied four times in two years. Venereal disease increased 400% in ten years; 72% in one year and our crime bill is 20 billion dollars a year. Crime has increased five times faster than our population has increased and juvenile crime is increasing seven times faster. For every dollar given to all religions in the U.S., we spend $12,000 on crime. All church buildings, synagogues and temples are outnumbered by taverns by 175,000! And to make matters worse, over 37 million of the children of the U.S. receive absolutely no religious instruction.
The point of all this is simple-we have the greatest preaching crisis the world has known! Today, we hear much about an energy crisis and a wheat shortage, but I am talking about a preaching shortage! Now, lest someone misunderstand, I am not talking about a preacher shortage, or a meeting house shortage, or a church of Christ shortage, but a shortage of gospel preaching. Statistics show that we have an estimated 18,680 churches of Christ with a membership of 2,350,000 and some 7,500 preachers, Have you never wondered why the world is in such a critical condition spiriturally, in view of the fact that Jesus said we are the Alight "of the world, the "salt"of the earth (Matt. 5:13-14)? It seems that 7,500 preachers, or the better part of us, have lost our savor. Too many today are caught up in a "rat race" for the big churches, big money, big "parsonages" and big names, while lost souls wander in darkness and despair.
There is nothing in all the world that can bless the people and change and transform the lives of men and nations as the precious gospel of Christ. Jesus said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). God's primary means of lifting Christ up is through faithful dedicated, trumpet-piped preaching. I know that even in this modern twentieth century, the gospel is still the power of God unto salvation and is more powerful than all nuclear weapons known to man. It can make the enemy stack their arms and run up the white flag.
I once read of a father who had promised to take his little boy back to the little country community and the church building where he was converted, and when school was out, he kept his promise and drove down winding lanes and up hills till he came to the little country church building. Hard by the meeting house was the cemetery where his loved ones were buried.
They got out and with reverence and uncovered heads, walked into the meeting house where the little boy's daddy was converted many years ago at the sound of God's power to save, the Gospel of Christ. Hanging from above was a rope from the old church bell. The little boy asked what it was and his daddy replied that it was the rope that pulled the bell and called the people to services to hear the gospel. The little boy looked up at his daddy and said, "Daddy, ring it again."
Brethren, I close this message with a soul stirred with concern and grief. I rededicate my life and my preaching to the advocating of the precious truths of the gospel. I plea with preaching brethren everywhere to join me, and together "let's ring it again"! Let's "ring out the gospel," let's "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins." (Isa. 58:1).
Truth Magazine, XVIII:40, p. 7-8