During the last 100 years, when Evangelical Christianity was waging war for converts, certain questionable practices were overlooked. But we're no longer the "kook fringe." We ARE the establishment. The frenzy of wartime mentality, characterized by wild claims of battle successes that never were, must be replaced with reasonable, honest results. And it's time to take thought for the wounded. For every truly saved American, (the Holy Spirit lives in them) there are at least 6 more that have said a "salvation prayer" and think they're saved as the result.
Many of these gave up on God and are now the cynical, "I tried that before" sinners that call people who go to church hypocrites. These are the most vocal haters of true Christianity. Their hatred is fueled by a dream that proved to be in their case, only a nightmare.
Imagine believing that God would meet all your needs and then having to suffer the pain of a baby dying, or any number of life's realities. Imagine trusting that God would always be there for you, and when Satan attacks, thinking God had abandoned you. This is the world view of millions of "Jesus people" that "got saved" in the last 40 years. Most of them make up an angry mob that the Christian Right can't understand. Their emotional instability is similar to that of an abused child. In their minds, they trusted a Father, and He abandoned them.
This pathology fuels the hatred of Public expressions of faith, (the Ten Commandments, Christmas Decorations, graduation and sporting event prayers, etc.) and will be the basis of persecution of true Christians in the future. This angry mob was created by the wild and irresponsible claims of modern evangelism. It is a sleeping giant waiting to find expression. And when this giant wakes up, watch out.
Tares In The Churches
If less than 10% of Americans are saved, (the Holy Spirit lives in them) then over half the people who go to church on Sunday are horribly deceived. Every poll, every statistical analysis, every internal and external church study shows what every evangelist and pastor knows: The majority of people who go to church in America are the moral equivalent of heathen.
Bill Bright, who should know, (his theology is most responsible for nominal Christianity in our time. See Blinded By The Bright) said, "...many who call themselves Christians are not really Biblical Christians at all. Although they may be religious people who attend church regularly, they have never experienced the new birth and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."
Dr. Rod Bell, president of the Fundamentalist Baptist Fellowship of America, believes 50% of people that go to church are lost. 2
Evangelist Luis Palau said of the 80% of Americans who claim to be Christian, "few live any differently from pagans or atheists, as though God has no claim on their lives." 3
Dr. James Dobson admitted that, "The majority of Americans are dabbling in religious expression that has no substance." 4
A.W. Tozer said "probably less than one out of ten evangelicals knows anything experientially about the new birth." 5
While church leaders all acknowledge the problem, most think evangelical Christians live like heathen because of a "lack of sanctification." Instead of trying to get them saved so they'll be changed by the Holy Spirit , we try to get them to act like Christians. After 100 years, winds of doctrine have effectively buried the Bible teaching of holistic salvation. Forensic or legal salvation has been exalted above experiential salvation to the point where the landmarks of power over sin and the workings of the Holy Spirit are buried like treasure, waiting to be exposed.
The Evangelical church is at the same point the Catholic church was when Luther brought reformation. Like that reformation, this reformation will require a return to a Biblical understanding of holistic salvation. We need to stop putting a "salvation prayer" Band-Aid on cancer and telling people they're healed. Like Luther, we have to return to a Biblical understanding of saving faith. Like Luther, we need to acknowledge that, "he who has been made righteous does works of righteousness." 6
Just as Luther unmasked the deceptive practice of indulgences, we must unmask the deceptive practice of leading people in a formula "salvation prayer." "When the penny drops, a soul is released from Purgatory" was almost as harmful as, "when you sincerely repeat this prayer, your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life." The first practice gave sinners the confidence that their friends and relatives could buy their way out of Purgatory. The second statement offers the sinner no-fault insurance from Hell.
Most people who attend Evangelical churches ignore the "small print" and go right to the bottom line: Because they said a salvation prayer, God doesn't see their sin...they're covered by the blood of Christ. So they can go on sinning without the fear of God. In fact, most are taught there's nothing they can do that will disqualify their free ticket to heaven. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" Rom 6:1 Yes, says modern evangelism. " But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" James 2:20 No, says modern evangelism. Faith without works is normal for most American Evangelical Christians.
There is no longer a need for showing forth the fruits of repentance, (Mattew 7:18) or making your election sure. (1 Peter 1:10) A youth pastor I know told a group of mostly lost teens, if they committed suicide, they'd still go to heaven. What kind of distorted theology would cause a minister to say such a thing to a group of teens most of which had no evidence of being saved? This is the result of the scandal of modern evangelism. We have become arrogant with the Scriptures,."... in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." 2 Peter 3:16
"God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?" Rom 6:2-3
No Evangelical evangelist or pastor before 1900 would have looked at the condition of people who go to church today and concluded their carnality was the result of "lack of sanctification." They would accurately conclude that the vast majority were never saved. The next question they would ask is, "why do they think they're saved?" The answer is the scandal of modern evangelism.
Revival Or Irrelevance
The Evangelical establishment has a choice to make. Either recognize that churches are full of heathen, and try to make them into saints, or become as irrelevant as most European churches. Either return to God's way - complete transformation of the individual by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, or continue throwing precious resources into worldly social reforms, becoming just another welfare program.
There has been 5 generations of theologians dumbing down the meaning of repentance and saving faith. Perhaps only one in 100 Christian Theologians knows, much less teaches, the identification aspect of the sacrifice of Jesus. We have come to the point where "sloppy agape" is considered normal for American Christians. If Paul were here, he'd say, " Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you are disqualified." 2 Cor 13:5
Symptoms of A Dead Church
Most people who go to church are morally the same as heathen. They don't have the power to overcome sin and don't have the workings of the Holy Spirit within them. This makes counseling and rehab programs necessary. It makes psychological methods and drug therapy seem logical. If someone isn't saved, the Bible is nothing more than an impractical rule book. You can't teach an old dog new tricks. You can't sew a new patch on an old garment. You can't put new wine into an old wineskin. If they aren't saved, the Gospel is just words. If sinners dominate a church, they will continually drive the standards of what's considered "Christian" down to the lowest common denominator. Not because they're consciously bad, but because their capable of no better.
The scandal of modern evangelism has resulted in the watering down of doctrine and accountability in the churches. Even as pastors preach on sexual purity, they know most will go home and watch pornography disguised as Hollywood movies. As they preach on covetousness, they know most will play the lottery and fantasize with the Wheel Of Fortune. As they preach on the Ten Commandments, they know most will break them without the fear of God.
These tares take up valuable church resources, and have shifted the emphasis from getting people saved to helping people act like Christians. As long as the diagnosis is wrong, the cure is never seen. Instead of trying to get church people to act like Christians, we need to tell them they aren't saved so at least they'll have a chance to repent.
Prerequisites for Revival
As long as we continue to ignore the problem, conditions will only get worse. Most people who go to church in America are not saved. This is not unusual. Every revival in history is preceded by a long process of lowering standards until the majority of church people are not saved. Most people go to church because they want to be good according to their own standard. Church attendance fits into their idea of maintaining their "goodness." Many treat church like a social club. They like being around people that have roughly the same standard of "goodness" they have. They ignore the hypocrisy of their private lives. Their "unity" is identical to the shared "good will" found in any corner tavern. These "good" people enjoy being around each other, and derive a sense of belonging and purpose from their peers. The spirit of congeniality is confused with Christian love.
When Charles Finney preached in churches, most of the parishioners heard the unvarnished Gospel for the first time. The definition of true Revival is when lost church people get saved. There were many times when pastors were deeply offended by the Gospel the way Finney preached it. One time, Finney returned to the home of a pastor he was staying with. The door was locked. Finney stood waiting for someone to unlock the door. Along came the Pastor. He begged his wife to open the door. Finally she let him in. She yelled at him, saying if Finney preached the truth, then he preached lies. He agreed with her. He repented and said Finney was right.
1 Pg 212, Red Sky In The Morning, Bill Bright, 1998
2 Pg 3, The Church That Will be Left Behind, Dr. R. L. Hymers, 2001
3 Pg 10, The Only Hope For America, Luis Palau, 1996
4 Pg 2, Focus On The Family Newsletter, James Dobson, August,1998
5 Pg 46, Getting Evangelicals Saved, Paris Reidhead, 1989
6 Pg 3, Luther's Works, 1972
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon