Preaching admittedly has fallen upon evil days. The man in the pew often seems to be more interested in the novelties spawned by man’s brain than in the message of the eternal God which alone provides light and life. And the preacher, afraid that he will be accused of being out of step with the times, speaks more about passing problems than the power of God unto salvation. No wonder, then, that preachers are increasingly edgy and pews becoming progressively emptier. Almost the days of great preaching seem gone forever.
“This situation troubles many today. And well may it, for when there is no sound and sustained preaching, the church dies.
In a brief article in Christianity Today (July 16, ’65) Paul S. Rees has some pointedly prophetic things to say about this.
“An evil day has dawned on the pulpit: too many preachers are purveyors of doubts and nibblers at problems when they should be trumpeters of informed convictions. For the heat and intenSity of the sentences that follow I decline to offer apology. If nothing is to be gained by speaking vehemently, more is to be lost by acquiescing silently. The declarative note, resounding confidently, is what makes preaching preaching. ‘We declare unto you glad tidings,’ said Paul to the people of Antioch. ‘Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare unto you,’ said the same St. Paul to the men of Athens…”
Bees insists that if a preacher feels he is free either to believe or disbelieve the definitive affirmations of Scripture, he “should have the decency” to ask by what right he can still claim to be a minister of Christ and the church.
In no uncertain terms he demonstrates that those who claim to be “interpreting these phrases so that they are agreeable to the contemporary mind” are actually guilty of repudiation. To him this is nothing short of “treachery.”
Therefore he concludes, “Declare it, brother preacher, declare it! Your silence is not golden, it is craven. Your evasion is your devastation. From your ambiguity only one thing can come—your futility. Either get out or get in! Then declare it—this ‘whole counsel of God.’ In Christ’s name, declare it!”
THE GOSPEL AND THE GREAT SOCIETY
In United Evangelical Action (May 1965) there appears an article by James DeForest Murch which deserves the thoughtful attention of every believer. It deals with “the implications for the individual renewed in Christ amidst the modern drive to the ‘Great Society.’”
The Great Society is an attempt to “achieve a social utopia through executive proclamations, legislative statutes, judicial decisions, bureaucratic decrees, political propaganda and above all, government spending of billions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money.” What makes the situation so tragic for Biblical Christianity is the eagerness with which so many churches, led by the National Council of Churches which has made “politics, social and economic affairs, not redemption, regeneration and renewal” its major concerns, have endorsed the program. Murch sees this correctly as a resurrection of the old social gospel in new dress. He argues cogently that evangelicals have been some of the greatest humanitarians in history. They have insisted that “there must be social results of individual holiness.” But this can come about only by following the mandate of our Lord who ordered his disciples to preach the gospel, commanding men everywhere to re· pent and believe and observe whatsoever he has commanded. Because redemption through Jesus Christ is not preached as the only foundation for turning the world upside down for God, “the glowing social goals which are being so assiduously preached from the White House and from liberal (and perhaps other?) Protestant pulpits” will not be attained.
The brief article closes with a specific directive, “Let us pray for a restoration of the New Testament church in doctrine and life, for a great spiritual revival that will breathe new life into the whole Christian community and for the individual and social renewal that will inevitably follow bringing a new day in our national life.” To which we make bold to add that we have no right to pray for such a revival, unless we, as confessing Christians who have received the Spirit, reform our lives and our preaching and our churches in obedience to the Word of the living God.
PETER Y. DE JONG