For thousands of years, prophets, priests and pastors have served as the voice of spiritual, moral, cultural and governmental accountability to the laws and sovereignty of God. The clergy during the colonial era were known as the “Black Regiment” and were feared by the British for their role in birthing the fire of freedom. Pastors like Lyman Beecher, Charles Finney and hundreds of others among their peers stirred the flames of abolition, temperance and racial justice.
We could list columns of names and situations of those filling pulpits who took responsibility for the condition of their flock, their community and their nation. However, beginning sometime in the last 100 years, a new “Gnosticism” asserted itself, an old heresy asserting that only the spiritual has value and that all things physical are evil.
As Christian historian Timothy Paul Jones describes the distinction exposing the lie of Gnosticism, “For Christians, salvation isn’t a spiritual retreat from the physical realm; it is a renewal that unites and restores both realms.” Our salvation brings hope for redemption to every aspect of the physical creation and created order.
From the first century Christians on, the Cultural Mandate given by God to his stewards in Genesis was accepted to mean that everything on earth is under God’s sovereignty, under our stewardship, and therefore “our business.” As false teachings crept in over the last century, the church moved into a sacred-versus-secular separation that opened the door wide for many kinds of evil to triumph.
In “The Late, Great Evangelical Church,” by C. Vaughn Doner, nationally renowned theologian, and biblical scholar Dr. Jay Grimstead, the authors state, “The studied creedlessnes of American Protestantism … its ignorance of the teaching of Scripture, its preoccupation with millennialism, its anti-sacramental and anti-ecclesiastical bias are all indicators of an essentially Gnostic worldview.”
Does it really matter as long as we “preach Jesus crucified and rose again”?
Thankfully, there are many pastors and theologians who would say there is much more to Christianity than just preaching the salvation message, doing Bible studies and waiting for the rapture. Among them was legendary evangelist of the first Great Awakening, Charles G. Finney, who wrote in “The Decay of Conscience” in 1873:
“Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.”
The birth and growth of myriad Christ-based social betterment ministries like Prison Fellowship, Samaritan’s Purse and thousands of others in recent decades is certainly positive and have produced a veritable explosion of street-level work to serve great needs in His name. Most evangelical pastors now accept the premise that we should take care of the hurting and needy among both church and community – although we could do it much better.
How are we doing if we really accept, dissect and apply Rev. Finney’s statement, and measure our nation today in the categories of:
- Immorality prevailing in the land;
- Decay of conscience – reprobate minds;
- Lack of public moral discretion – moral relativism;
- A degenerate (worldly) church;
- Decreasing interest in biblical Christianity by the churched and unchurched;
- Satan dominating halls of legislation; and
- Corrupt politics threatening the foundations of government.
We are sick, and the pulpits are largely at fault. It is certainly not because we lack great pulpiteers, personalities and promoters. What, then, is the root problem? Or, like the old commercial of a national fast food franchise, “Where’s the beef?”
Pastors must get back to putting the call to make disciples and teach the people “all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20) ahead of church as usual. Preach the unvarnished Word of God rather than telling stories salted with a few Scriptures. Will it empty some pews? Undoubtedly. Will it make you more popular and a pop icon? Most likely not. Will it restore the power of God to the church and bring healing to our land? It always has.
We are at a point where thousands of pastors across America must take the challenge, honestly assess whether we are accepting the full mandate in every area shown above and providing the “offensive” leadership that the church so desperately needs. The cost of not doing so can already be measured in broken lives and a weak nation.
Our God demands more and our people deserve better, so bring it on!