Yes, you read it right. I believe the greatest deterrent to revival is the church. The church in America is playing games at the foot of the cross. We desperately need revival churches that will seek the Lord as never before.
Carnality abounds. The devil is no longer fighting churches, he’s joining them. Many churches are nothing more than religious social clubs. The YMCA carries the name Christian, but it’s far from it. Many churches say they are ‘Christian’ but they are more Corinthian than we dare admit. In recent weeks, I’ve heard several disturbing stories.
One church I heard about had a Singles fellowship where hard liquor was served. It’s not clear whether or not the event was ‘sanctioned’ but surely the staff and pastor would know about it. In another church, a visitor sat down by a staff member (he had a name tag on). He reeked of alcohol. During the welcome he turned to her and said, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to stay awake. I really tied one on last night.”
Another church was visited where the pastor never took a Bible in his hand or referred to it. No public invitation was given or any instructions on how to talk to someone about Christ. Apparently, seekers can’t find what they are looking for because no one seems to know what they are talking about. In another, ten deacons and Sunday School teachers have admitted they do not believe that Jesus is the only way to God. All of these are part of my denomination. God help us.
We can not stick our heads in the sand. Churches are drifting into liberalism, immorality, and relative thinking. The post modern world is in the church. These churches, are not salt and light. The darkness is creeping in and the meat of God’s Word is decaying. Satan must be having the time of his life.
The argument goes, but these are successful churches. Yes they are, and they run thousands in multiple services. They are hip, hot and happening – but apparently they’ve forgotten holiness.
Sociologist Alan Wolfe published a book entitled, The Transformation of American Religion. In it, the author addresses toothless evangelicalism. He says, “Christians and Jews…have ignored doctrines, reinvented traditions, switched denominations, redefined morality…”
In an article on page 34, in Christianity Today, October 2003, regarding this problem, I read these words, “Savvy pastors take what the unchurched want most and offer a religious path to their desires.” It seems ‘practicing the culture’ rather than ‘practicing the faith’ is the current drift of the church.
Read carefully these words from the article. “By making religion not only attractive but easy, we are experiencing ‘salvation inflation.’ The reference is to the well-known phenomenon of grade inflation, in which teachers give so many A’s that top grades become meaningless. Likewise, as evangelical Christians expect less of people ‘to achieve salvation, the blessings of salvation are offered with fewer strings attached.'”
The church is in trouble. Prophets are an endangered species. Truth is sacrificed for numbers. Righteousness is sacrificed on the altar of a ‘good time was had by all.’ HBO’s show to follow Sex in the City could be ‘Sex in the Church.’
We need Pentecostal power, not a party at Hooters. Lacking holiness, we have nothing to offer the world. If we aren’t distinctive, we are nothing. There is no hope if the church looks like the world. What’s happening is nothing more than a 21st century version of Corinthian.
I’ve listened to some messages by several of these preachers. They are all great communicators, but what are they communicating? Sometimes, it’s not so much what they are saying as what they are not saying. It’s not blatant, it’s subtle, just the way the devil likes to work.
They water down the truth. They almost say what the Bible says, but they back off. They conveniently edit the whole counsel of God. They deny doctrines for the sake of crowds. You hear little or nothing about the blood of Jesus, holiness, righteousness, repentance. These words have no place in New Age churches. Applause is the only measuring stick.
These churches are led by Dr. Feel Good. He wants to connect. He’s an excellent communicator. He cares, he really does. He dresses down so he can relate. At the same time the church is going through a dumbing down process. He cares nothing for what happened before he arrived on the scene. He knows nothing of the blood, sweat and tears of our forefathers who fought for truth and paid dearly for their stance. Nothing significant happened before he showed up.
Is this watering down of the gospel any different from the recently confirmed homosexual Episcopal Bishop who said, “Just simply to say that it goes against tradition and the teaching of the church and Scripture does not necessarily make it wrong.” Call that situational ethics. Call it depraved. Call it humanistic. Call it culturally acceptable. I still call it sin. If Scripture says it’s wrong, it’s wrong, end of discussion.
Such ministers are not what we need today. We’ve allowed these ‘successful’ churches to intimidate us. It is implied that we need to forsake the old paths. They say folks like me are old fashioned. We must have the tenacity, fortitude and gumption to stand for what is right. A revived church calls sin, sin. She demands repentance. God’s looking for a bride, not a prostitute dressed in a wedding gown. These have prostituted the gospel.
To be honest, most believers don’t know their Bibles well enough to discern where the subtle sidetracks are taking them. They don’t see it, because they don’t want to. It’s easier to go with the flow than swim against the tide. It’s easier to go along than stand your ground.
What the church and pastors need today is a good dose of Martin Luther, Finney, Spurgeon, A. W. Tozer, John Wesley, and others. These men were willing to stand up to the crisis of the hour. They stood for the Word and against tradition, heresy and apostasy. We need them today. We need to get back to our roots. The pygmies of today’s pulpit couldn’t hold a match to these men.
Until the church in America sees the need for a purifying, Holy Ghost movement, we are never going to see a national movement of God. There will be pockets, but our greatest resistance, I believe will come from carnal churches and apostate pastors. After all, when the money is rolling in, the parking lot is full and the seats are jammed for multiple services, WHO NEEDS GOD?
©2003 MCC. All rights reserved.
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.