Dr. Shelton Smith, Editor
-RETURN AMERICA, Dr. Ron Baity
Dr. Shelton Smith
Far too many people have decided to “become Christians” without having been “saved.” They are Christians in the sense that they have aligned themselves with a Christian group.
They got baptized, they take communion, and they are members of a church; but by their own admission they are not born again. They are doing some Christian things, but they are unsure of Heaven when they die. They tip their hat to God and determine to be as good as they can and do as much good as they can, but they are not born again.
They have religion , not salvation. They identify as Christian, but they are not Christians in reality. Remember John 3:1-8.
The preacher’s fire has gone out. The dynamics of the art of preaching have eroded into a soft-soap “talk.” Anemic fill-in-the-blank teaching has become the presentation of choice.
In the absence of Bible preaching with Spirit-filled authority the people go hungry. When the pulpit menu at the church is like microwaved leftovers or TV frozen dinners, the folks don’t eat and gain strength.
So many of our churches have found for themselves weak leaders who either can’t or won’t preach. When that happens, the people drift. They drift spiritually and morally. They drift philosophically and socially.
Shortly following the drift, the shift into strange territory begins. When their church fails to impact their worldview, they start grazing in other pastures. This poll makes clear that the shift in evangelical circles is well underway.
Doctrine is a despised word with a lot of these folks. A lot of their churches go to great lengths to avoid any clear-cut defining of Bible doctrine. Their watered-down teaching leaves out the “meat” of the Word (I Cor 3:2). Absent the “meat” of Bible doctrine, even the “milk” seems to be of the two-percent variety.
The preacher has a God-given responsibility to “…speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Such “sound doctrine” should include salvation by grace through faith, baptism after salvation by immersion, eternal security and a generous number of other scripturally clear matters.
The news media is politically correct! The government is politically correct! The schools are politically correct! Now a lot of churches are likewise becoming politically correct!
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” -II Tim. 4:3,4
It is not popular to buck the news media, the government and the schools, so these clergy and their churches cave in and go along. They make a place for evolution! They redefine marriage! They embrace sodomy! They go soft on alcohol! They accommodate whatever the people want, etc.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” -I Tim. 4:1,2
Scriptural correctness has been pushed to one side by many in evangelical circles in order to make room for political correctness. Obviously you can’t have both. So if one is given priority, the other one will be on the outside looking in.
Camaraderie and fellowship are at the top of the list with evangelicals. Everybody must get along and go along. “Getting together” at the expense and the exclusion of Bible truth is the norm.
Unity is generated from a superficial “let’s be nice” platform.
To the contrary genuine Bible-based unity must have a solid, doctrinal foundation and underpinning.
Unity that is created by sacrificing truth is not the advocacy found in the Bible. This superficial unity opens the floodgates to allow the promotion and proclamation of many varying ideas. This generates confusion that leaves the evangelical crowd grabbing here and grabbing there. The result is that they are now embracing a host of unchristian ideas.
A religious version of the politically correct penchant for inclusivism has blurred all the lines of distinctiveness. The charismatic movement has been a major mover and shaker in this regard.
Popular TV preachers like Robert Schuller (now deceased) and Joel Osteen have fostered the “everybody get together” ideology. Billy Graham resigned from the board of the Sword of the Lord in the 1950s because he decided to go this route.
The breakdown was predictable. When you begin to major on soft-soap in order to facilitate your unscriptural unity agenda, you should know that the result will be weakness, not strength.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasurers more than lovers of God;
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away.” II Timothy 3:1-5.
Note “having a form of godliness” (vs. 5). These verses are describing the church crowd. Unreal, even unthinkable, but so very, very true!
Once the seeds of destruction begin to sprout, the “let’s do it the easy way” crowd gravitates to whatever entertains them. Their appetite for spiritual food (real Bible preaching and teaching) is replaced by a lust for flesh-appeasing, worldly husks. Instead of good, soul-stirring music, the church platform turns to rock, rap, and other such music (with some soft-sell “Christian” words, of course).
The “preaching” is reduced to a talk and a very short one at that.
The weaker the folks become, the less they show up at church. Eventually the ministry is reduced to a once-a-week, watered-down service. The longer this continues, the weaker the folks become. All the while they are being influenced by Islam, the media, etc. Consequently, they now have the “shocking” survey.
A lot of churches have already cancelled their Sunday morning Bible study that has been called “Sunday school” for several hundred years.
In so many churches where Sunday school is still held each Sunday, it has become a social event with most of the time spent on coffee, donuts and reviewing the sick list. Bible study gets only a brief portion of the allotted time. Often the subject matter being taught is also woefully deficient and does not build strong Christians.
The Sunday school should be a solid center of indoctrination, education and edification.
In evangelical circles they have changed Bibles so many times the people do not know what to believe. When the text of Scripture is in a constant state of flux, it doesn’t take long until the authority of Scripture is totally undermined. This is a major factor in the breakdown of faith among evangelicals.
They will laugh at us because we will not change Bibles, but after this “shocking” survey they may want to stop laughing and throw out all of their watered-down Bibles.
An authoritative text that is tested, tried and true-the King James Bible-is a necessity if you expect to see your converts grow into strong Christians.
Everybody knows that we need to reach young people. What everybody doesn’t seem to realize is that you don’t get the job done giving them everything their immaturity demands.
Church youth ministries are often built on what I call “kiddie preaching” and “kiddie music.” That is exactly the opposite of what should happen.
The teen departments in your church should have strong preaching, solid Bible study, standards of conduct and participation along with solid, noncontemporary music.
When the adult leadership leads with authority, example and love, the kids will follow. And the results will be good!
Indeed, the Summit/Barna survey was pretty shocking even for the evangelicals. But let’s be honest with ourselves. The slide among some fundamentalists, in which they are borrowing everything they can from the evangelicals, puts all of us in danger.
To my preacher brethren, I’m sounding an alarm because it is past time to be alert. Danger is beyond the doorstep and already inside the house. Naivete we cannot afford. Going-along-to-get-along is a flawed philosophy.
Just because something is “big” doesn’t mean it is “better” or “best.”
We had better pay attention. What this generation does in moderation the next generation will do in excess. Remember this pointed teaching:
“Walking about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof.
Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following”- Ps. 48:12.13.
Once the slide toward the left has begun, it is very, very difficult for a church to regain its moorings and pull back to solid ground.
Already several pastors who have “contemporized” their churches following the influence of the evangelicals and the charismatics have said, “I made a huge mistake, but I could never turn it back now without losing most of my current crowd.” So sad, indeed!
My earnest plea: don’t let it happen to you!