Thursday, October 11, 2018

Are Churches Getting Out of the Religion Business?

These days we regularly listen to sermons given by an evangelical pastor named John MacArthur. We listen to them on weekends or whenever, and find we agree with most of what is said. Yes, we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but we find that to get a steady diet of  real sermons centered on salvation through Jesus Christ alone and Him crucified for our sins we have to go elsewhere. Being human we find we need regular reminders. Otherwise we more easily slip into our natural selfish worldly human ways.

Yes, we need and want to go to church meetings regularly. But what we increasingly hear there is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead we hear a great deal of sociological secular humanist jargon.Yes, church these days seems to be more about human relations than about any relationship with the members of the Godhead. We think people actually believe their human interactions translate into interaction with God, but with no conscious thought of God in the process. Apparently this is common in all churches today. It is what MacArthur has called the "emergent church" or the new "social justice church." Another name for this development is the Christian Left, with the word Christian losing most of its meaning in the process.

We are not alone. We have heard from many people who belong to our church who have shared the same perception. To paraphrase:

Yeah, we don't come to church so often anymore---we head to our cabin on weekends because we don't hear much about the gospel here. 

It's all about airing people's problems and feeling good about ourselves, instead of being about faith in Jesus Christ and our need for repentance.

Our Sunday School lesson was all about social justice this week! And the instructor pretended his ideas came from the Bible! All the sudden he's on the internet promoting the acceptance of  homosexuality and gay marriage, and every other leftist cause! I've discussed it with him and the powers that be to no avail. And I wasn't the only one there who didn't like it.

My bishop said he wouldn't do anything if homosexuality were being promoted from the pulpit. But he said he might go home and tell his own family it wasn't right . . .  

All people do in church is make lists on the blackboard that never change anyone. They don't talk about how we must humbly apply precepts to overcome the natural man and become new kinds of beings in Christ.

When our nation's Christian churches abdicate their responsibility to uphold moral and scriptural truths and preach Christ, it means that churches aren't really churches anymore, just self-protecting institutions pretending to be religious.

It's understandable that the people who run churches would want to ease their way out of the now very unpopular business of confronting and warning members about the very real evils taking over world culture and the need to turn back to God. But isn't this their job? Isn't this why churches exist in the first place?

Could it really be that churches would rather avoid some pressure and unpleasantness by evolving into humanitarian, sociologically "safe" places? Is it many of today's churches' goal to make the people who feel comfortable in the world, as it is today, feel just as comfortable in church, thereby turning the church into a mere extension of the world, while continuing to be thought of as religious institutions and continuing to entitle themselves to all sorts of financial benefits, support, and gain?

All we may have that is left to live and pass on real religion is the individual and the family. Shifting some teaching responsibility from the church to the home could potentially mean leaders wouldn't have to worry about teaching certain topics, say, sexual immorality, in the church. They could let uncomfortable things involving sexual impurity, like homosexuality and transgenderism and pornography and adultery and fornication and unwed motherhood and abortion and sexual abuse, freely infiltrate the church, and if controversies came up within the church they could then indicate that teaching about such things, pro or con, is tricky, or private, or individual, or whatever, and must be done in the home. All the hot-button social and political evils, even though clearly condemned in scripture, could be ignored in all church venues with this excuse. Church can just be about all that inclusiveness and unity and serving one another. Not serving God, mind you, serving one another and accepting all these vices. Indeed, it's already happening.

Maybe it's about money or, in other words, self-preservation. If a church takes no official stand on these issues, in today's climate it can't as easily be sued. This is exactly what has happened in schools. Years ago when pro-gay stuff was entering our kids' high school and we tried to be heard by the PTA, we were summarily shut down, told the school had to be on the pro-gay side of things to reduce the risk of being sued.

We don't know what motivates churches, but if a safe place is their goal, it must be pointed out that such safety is a total delusion. For one thing, such a place is not safe for everyone. People with conservative family values and truly religious beliefs are shut up, shunned, even persecuted. Faithful Christians are even being burned alive or beheaded overseas. For another thing, failing to stop evil leads to more evil. Just as we see happening in the public arena, Godless people are getting really angry and violent. And no, they won't stop. They will only get more fractious. When God is taken out, it is usually evil and anarchy that fill in the void, however gradually.

Let's admit it. Taking any degree of religion out of churches by the churches themselves is a forfeiture of our freedom to assemble and worship according to the dictates of our conscience. By the way, getting rid of religion is one of the first things despots in communist and socialist countries do. They board up the church buildings. And here we are doing the same thing in spirit of our own accord!

What's important about church is not the time we spend in meetings and rites and activities, but what we discuss and learn there, what we believe as a group. And apparently we are discussing and learning less and less religion these days in places built specifically for discussing and learning Religion with a capital R. 

What about those of us who want real theology, who want God, who want Jesus Christ, who would still find it greatly helpful to meet together often with like-minded people to discuss the welfare of our immortal souls? Well, some have taken the problem into their own hands. We have heard of groups who have been meeting in their houses for Sunday School. Our church used to give such groups a big no-no. Something about the danger of getting off-track. Now all of a sudden they appear to be encouraging such extracurricular activities. Apparently they don't care if members disagree with each other on topics of utmost, soul-deep importance, as long as they keep it out of church buildings!

At this crucial time we don't need less religion. We need more. Inside and outside our church buildings. Inside and outside our schools and communities. Inside and outside our houses. But it's got to be real church, real religion, God's Word. Not a lot of stories about human beings, alive or dead, and all their situations and achievements. Shouldn't followers of Christ everywhere be endlessly testifying and discussing and learning about applying the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, especially in their most fancy, holy buildings? Is that happening?

Yes, real religion is politically incorrect. Yes, it's uncomfortable. Yes, it's hard doctrine. There are many much easier and more palatable things to talk about and emphasize and do, things that people mistake for religion. But we need real religion, real truths that pierce our hearts. Truth is where real and lasting comfort comes from. Truth is where we find the Lord's solutions. We need Truth that transcends ourselves and this wayward world, Truth that comes only from God.

People can take or leave the gospel of Jesus Christ. But churches purporting to be centered on Christ have to offer it first and foremost, indeed, emphasize it above all else, or they aren't religious and they aren't churches. They are something else altogether. 

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