By Bob F. Owen
Several years ago I preached in a gospel meeting in the small community where my wife and I have lived for thirty-five years. Having formed many friendships in the community through serving on the City Council, we saw a special chance to get some of these friends to study the Bible with us. We wrote a personal letter explaining our belief in the Scriptures as the inspired Word of God and the necessity of doing only what we find in the Scriptures. This, of course, rejects the popular concept that any and every way of worship is acceptable to God. We mailed this letter to over two hundred acquaintances. During the week’s meeting with the local church a number of these people attended.
In the few weeks following the meeting, three of my friends saw me personally and explained why they had not attended. Each of these expressed quite similar reasons although they talked with me separately and had no idea of the discussions of the others. Their reasons impressed me greatly. To their great surprise, I agreed with much of their criticism and expressed total disapproval of the practices on the basis of Scripture – not just because of personal feelings. Perhaps you have shared some of these same feelings. Perhaps, too, you may be surprised to hear a preacher agreeing with your objections to “religion.”
Each of my friends began with a statement which, in essence, said, “I really do not have any respect for religion, or churches, or for that matter, for preachers.” Q welcomed it when each assured me he liked me personally and was speaking of preachers generally.) Each, in separate ways, explained his feeling that churches were little more than tax exempt social clubs and preachers were little more than public relationship managers. Each objected to the common place money-raising schemes and to the seeming hypocrisy of the leaders. None of these three saw “church” as a spiritually-oriented group with a major goal of eternity. All saw churches as parallels to the Heart Fund, the Red Cross, or another service organization trying to meet physical or social needs.
My friends were surprised to learn that I disapprove the social gospel concept as much as they and that where I preach the emphasis is on gaining heaven. Our churches do not build recreational facilities or sponsor youth ball teams or special outings for the aged. Our preaching is Bible-centered with the thrust of “this is what God requires of us in order to go to heaven.” The gospel of Christ is designed to save the souls of men, not to reform society or to create a heaven on earth. If one obeys God he will be a good citizen and a good father (or mother) and a good worker, etc., but these are side benefits to the real purpose of the coming of Jesus – “to seek and to save that which is lost.”
I expect the feelings expressed by my friends are common to many people today. Their disgust with what they see as religion closes their eyes to true religion and to the Bible which teaches that truth. What a shame that those who parade as God’s servants are in fact serving to drive people away from God! It certainly could be that they are like those of the days of Paul,
And no marvel; for even Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light. It is no great thing therefore if his ministers fashion themselves into ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works (2 Cor. 11:14,15).
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 24, p. 745
December 17, 1987