As we watch out nation spiraling downward into a maelstrom of wickedness and depravity, the silence of those best equipped to address the matter is stunning. No, I’m not talking about our politicians, our educators, or even well-known Christian leaders or national ministries. I’m referring to the innumerable churchgoers who are sincere in their faith but seem to have little or no interest in promoting or defending it (Jude 3).
For going on a half-century so-called faithful churchgoing Christians sat on their hands and tolerated the murder of the unborn. As a nation, we’ve gone from espousing abortion as something that should be “safe, legal, and rare” to “Shout Your Abortion.” We’ve gone from pretending it was all about giving that massive number of women (sarcasm) who conceive due to rape and incest an alternative, to legally protecting abortion during birth and even after a botched abortion where the infant survives.
We sat back and watched as the porn industry went from seedy magazines hidden in back rooms in convenience stores to hardcore videos available for free on anybody’s laptop or cell phone. Pornography is a 12 billion dollar industry in the United States alone (97 billion dollars worldwide). And it infests and infects our churches to the same extent that it does the rest of society.
Faithful Christians allowed the co-opting of the rainbow for sinful purposes. We’ve even allowed our church youth to become indoctrinated expositors of sexual immorality. And speaking of doctrine, denominational seminaries have become little more than progressive indoctrination centers. It is hard to discern if churchgoers in America even have a coherent doctrine of sin any longer.
Why does the faithful churchgoer bear much of the blame for where we are now? Because we forgot the call to holiness (1 Peter 1:13-2:10) is an admonition to stand apart; not blend in. We don’t want to hear about sexual purity from the pulpit because most of us didn’t wait for sex until we were married. We don’t want to hear anything about divorce because there are so many divorcees in the pew. We don’t want to hear about God’s design for marriage being a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman because so many of us had already ignored the Bible’s teaching on marriage in so many other areas.
If we live in a state where gambling is legal we don’t want to hear anything about stewardship. When I pastored for a few years in Kentucky it was made clear to me to stay far away from making any negative references to horse racing, tobacco, and alcohol since all three are staples in the bluegrass state (I didn’t heed the advice if you’re wondering). In any Southeastern Conference state, our pastors are asking for trouble if they say anything negative about those who spent all day Saturday at the stadium but couldn’t make it to church on Sunday.
For decades now, churchgoers have sent a very clear and unmistakable message to their pastors: keep sermon material on one subject and only one subject: salvation.
Never mind what Jesus said about being salt and light in a decaying and darkening world (Matthew 5:13-16). Never mind what Paul said about exposing unfruitful works of darkness for what they are (Ephesians 5:11). Just forget that the author of Hebrews said that without holiness you will never see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). And never mind that John wrote that Christ came “to destroy the works of the devil” rather than learn how to live with them (1 John 3:8).
No, preachers, don’t bother the people with how to live holy lives. Just focus on salvation. Tell people who Jesus is and leave it at that. We don’t need any sermons about the issues we are actually facing in this life. Just tell us how to be saved. Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.
Doesn’t anyone find it a bit odd that after giving Moses and the Hebrews the Ten Commandments God kept talking about how to live? A lot. If we think preachers should only talk about salvation then there really should only be six books in the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (of course that’s not really true because the only thing pertinent to salvation in Genesis is the fall, you could argue only the first 12 chapters of Exodus deal with the subject of salvation, and percentage-wise, very little of the gospels actually deal with how to be saved). There’s really no need to talk to Christians about biblical history, prophecy, eschatology, or even Israel and the church. Not if preachers are only supposed to stick with how to be saved.
I know the above paragraph is ludicrous to any thinking believer and yet our churches are filled (using that word very loosely) with people who don’t want to hear anything about what ails the world and how we are supposed to address it.
What exactly do these churchgoers think got Jesus crucified? I guarantee you it had more to do with Him telling people how to live for God in the here and now than it had to do with John 3:16 (they may have used His statement to Nicodemus to justify a charge of blasphemy but it was His call for repentance and a life of holiness that was not being modeled or proclaimed that infuriated His detractors enough to have Him killed).
We are not called to be identified as “Easter worshipers.” We may take umbrage at being called that but I, for one, can see how the practice of our faith has led to that kind of identification by worldly people. Our calling is to first be reborn and then take that light headlong into the darkness (Matthew 16:18). To call sin what it is.
What many seem to forget is that you cannot have a meaningful conversation about salvation until you convince people what it is that they need salvation from. Light is meaningless if there is no understanding of darkness. Obedience to God doesn’t anything if I can do whatever I want and call it obedience. We have to be willing to delve into God’s Word and clearly see what God considers disobedience first.
If all Jesus wants our preachers to do is tell people how to be saved then why did He dictate to John the letters to the seven churches? Not one of them talks about how to be saved! Most of them talk about what they are doing wrong. All of them end with an admonition to be conquerors and overcomers. Do we really need to know about overcoming darkness and conquering evil once we’re in God’s presence in heaven?
The obvious truth is that we need sermons on the evils of abortion. We need sermons on the sin and consequence of sexual immorality (of all kinds). We need to hear sermons on stewardship when gambling is an issue in our lives. We need to hear sermons on purity as we live in a porn drenched society. We need to hear sermons on loving our enemies as we all witness the vile hatred spewing forth by members of our government. My point is that we need to empower our preachers to preach sermons about what is going on in the world and how God expects us to deal with all the issues, not in place of, but in addition to sermons on how to be saved and why.
Just because there are people in the church who have gotten a divorce doesn’t mean preachers should not preach on where God stands on marriage and divorce. Just because there may be people in the congregation who are yielding to same-sex attraction and identify as homosexuals doesn’t mean preaching the biblical teachings on human sexuality are off limits because it might offend someone (I’m not talking about attacking sinners from the pulpit. I’m talking about addressing sin and righteousness). Just because a lot of churchgoers put sports and leisure ahead of worship on Sundays doesn’t mean the preacher had better steer clear of sermons on priorities and preeminence.
If we are ever going to turn things around in this country we are going to have to stop putting a proverbial barbed wire fence around our church’s pulpits. If your preacher is only preaching the milk of the gospel, let him know you appreciate it but would like some meat too. If your preacher is under fire because he’s stepping on toes by preaching the whole counsel of God, then let him (and his detractors) know you support what he’s doing.
Sinners need correction and saints often need motivation as well as encouragement. But most importantly, our nation needs to hear the Word of the living God…without shame, fear, or apology!