By Mario Murillo. A funny thing happened when celebrity preachers tried to get America to like them: America ended up hating them.
I am writing this with deep love for, and loyalty to, the local church. There is no desire to take a cheap shot at anyone, or to cause division within the church. I have to write this, because love does not lie or withhold needed correction.
America has abandoned God, Christian values, as well as Israel, and our nation is racing toward disaster. Evil festers when good men do nothing. Denying it will not change it or make it go away. Its effect on you and those you love will not be stopped by delusional teachings of spiritual entitlement.
So how do we turn the American Church around? That is the question I posed in a previous post. Now I continue to answer that burning question by saying this: in order to turn the church around we must face the fact that America liked us better, back when we told the truth.
Here is an illustration from the Bible. Jonah ran from his calling. Then God sent a great storm. The captain of the ship that Jonah boarded in his flight from God had a gut feeling that Someone was angry about something. When they found Jonah asleep, they asked him, “Who are you?” When he admitted he was a runaway prophet, Jonah 1:10 tells us, “Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, ‘Why have you done this?’ For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.”
Americans feel a psychical resentment toward the church. I say psychical, because it is intuitive and subconscious. They really cannot explain why they are angry with us. They may claim it is our politics, or falsely accuse us of racism, or even rightly point out our flaws, yet this present dislike of the church stems from something much deeper. They are asking us, as those men long ago asked Jonah, “Why have you done this?”
When the outside world observes our ‘illustrated-electronic-happy-talks’ they get a gut feeling that we are hiding something. They also suspect that our nation’s storm, similar to that of Jonah’s time, is partly because preachers are not confronting sin anymore. As one non-Christian pundit put it, “If there was more hell in the pulpit, there would be less hell in the ghetto.”
At this point in our national disaster, a mega-church is like having a great party going on on the deck of the Titanic—you may be having a great time, but you will not save America from the frigid angry ocean.
Here is the real rub…if numbers matter so much to our mega-churches, then why are we ignoring the most important statistic: overall church attendance in America has fallen dramatically?
They liked us better, when we were not trying to be liked. There was a day when men of God stood in pulpits as free men. They were free of any need to be liked or successful. A. W. Tozer said, “These free men will serve God and mankind from motives too high to be understood by the rank and file of religious retainers who today shuttle in and out of the sanctuary. They will make no decisions out of fear, take no course out of a desire to please, accept no service for financial considerations, perform no religious act out of mere custom; nor will they allow themselves to be influenced by the love of publicity or the desire for reputation.”
We are impressed by churches that can draw 15,000 people. But that is nothing compared to back in the day when America liked us better…a whole lot better.
Look at the picture of Billy Graham in the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1963. 120,000 are inside, and another 30,000, could not get in. On the scoreboard it says “I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No man comes unto the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6). Not one person was offered a visitors gift bag filled with CDs. No one was in the dark about the purpose of the meeting. Billy stood there and simply told them that they had to come to Christ or be lost for all eternity.
Look at this picture below of Billy preaching in Times Square in New York City. We cannot even imagine any of this happening today.
When Billy prayed for sermons he focused on hearing what the Holy Spirit wanted him to say. He wanted a message that God could use, and not words that would dazzle the audience. When Billy was in the pulpit, he completely died to his private opinions. He got out of the way, so that the Holy Spirit could work on the audience.
We bought into the lie that if we ‘made nice,’ and took out the scary parts of our message, we would be liked, but we ended up more despised than ever.
“He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue.” (Proverbs 28:23)
Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church Dallas said, “Jesus did confront his culture with truth—and He ended up being crucified because of it. I believe it’s time for pastors to say, you know, I don’t care about controversy, I don’t care whether I’m going to lose church members, I don’t care about building a big church. I’m going to stand for Truth regardless of what happens.”
They may not like us for telling them the truth, but they will at least hear the Truth!