Crisis in the American Church
Jill Martin Rische
IWhat is happening to the leadership of the Church today? Why do so many seem to care more for popularity and publishing contracts than for the souls of men and women dying in their sins? Since when does preaching the gospel take a back seat to public image?
Mega-church pastors preach sermons casting Judas as a poor, misunderstood guy caught up in the politics of his time. Maybe he didn’t mean to betray Jesus—it was his destiny after all, so how can it be fair? Maybe God forgave him in the end. Other pastors spend Sunday mornings bottle-feeding their sheep before sending them out to the coffee shop in the lobby; still others talk about everything under the sun except what will happen to people who turn their backs on God. And then we have some front-line defenders of the faith—Christian apologists—worshipping with Mormons in their Tabernacle and making plans to celebrate Joseph Smith’s birthday. Bringing up the rear are the prosperity name it and claim it preachers who shout about faith, and then beg us for money. I ask you: where is their faith? Why do they ask me for money when they can ask God? And why do they visit doctors and schedule surgeries?
We are looking apostasy in the eye . . . it is coming.
The Church has bought into the “whatever works for you” philosophy that saturates our world. They simply refuse to offend anyone. Strobe lights and giant TV screens in the sanctuaries—coffee shops in the lobbies—where is the reverence for God? Where is the humility in His presence?
In July, 1961, Dr. Vernon Grounds wrote a short, but powerful article for my father's Religious Research Digest. In light of today's Christian leadership crisis and the "keep people comfortable" philosophy, the question remains relevant: Should we soft-sell the gospel to avoid offending people, or should we tell the truth in love—a truth inherently offensive? Do we call religions like Mormonism that pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ "New Religious Movements" or do we call them cults? If people are going to Hell, is it our responsibility to tell them what will happen if they reject Christ?
Dr. Grounds had this to say on the subject 45 years ago:
“Tact, graciousness, and courtesy are virtues which ought to mark the disciples of history's greatest Gentleman. But though in His gentleness, Jesus Christ never broke a bruised reed, He was by no means a “soft-sell” preacher. He spoke the truth in love, to be sure, yet His words were like sword thrusts and hammer blows. He did not lull the multitudes to sleep; He did everything, in Robert Louis Stevenson's phrase, "to stab them wide awake."
"Very different is the ministry of some twentieth-century pulpiteers whose sermons are as hard-hitting as milkweed down. The Carpenter, who could drive home truth with staccato power, would pour holy scorn on our modern vendors of "sweetness and light." Indeed, today our Lord might be held up as a red-light example of tactless, negative preaching. Nevertheless, such preaching is precisely the salt needed by the insipid stew of our secular culture.
"Hence, the faithful minister of the Gospel whose preaching is as sharp and direct as an arrow hitting the mark sometimes seem to be tactless and negative. Like a surgeon he must cut in order to heal. He must unmask lies, even pious lies, which keep souls from salvation. He must pulverize illusions so that life can be rebuilt upon the solid foundation of reality.
"Plainly, therefore, we must stress more than the pastoral ministry of comfort and love. We must stress the prophetic ministry of criticism and judgment.
Where are the voices of truth today? Where are the soldiers of the cross? Living in times like this, I miss my father more than ever. Walter Martin pulverized illusions. He used sword thrusts and hammer blows. Culturally, he was a tough New Yorker raised by my grandfather—a tough New York judge—but he tried to balance his in-your-face attitude with love. He passionately loved people; he loved them enough to tell them the truth.
In a world of people pleasers, the children of God must be heard. We are the light of the world and salt in the open wounds caused by false doctrine.
And in the end, Jesus prefers salt to sugar.
Jill Martin Rische received her Bachelor’s Degree in Old Testament Literature with an emphasis on the Hebrew language from Oral Roberts University. She is currently completing her Master’s degree in Humanities/History at California State University. Jill is Dr. Walter Martin’s eldest daughter and the author of the inspirational book, Through the Windows of Heaven, 100 Powerful Stories and Teachings from Walter Martin, the Original Bible Answer Man (Broadman & Holman, 1999) and Jack Star and the Secret Door (Kingdom, 2003) a youth fantasy adventure in the tradition of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Kevin Rische and Jill Martin Rische are the Managing Editors on the 2003 edition of The Kingdom of the Cults (Bethany House) working with Dr. Ravi Zacharias as the General Editor. The Risches are also the founders of Walter Martin Ministries and the producers of the nationwide radio program Essential Christianity, featuring Dr. Walter Martin as "The Original Bible Answer Man".
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