“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there: in her fertile land, and boundless prairies, and it was not there. Not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great” (Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835).
Comte De Tocqueville was one of the brightest minds of his time: a French aristocrat, diplomat, political scientist, and historian. He cut through the veneer and identified preaching as the prime source of our genius. Think of that. He pinpointed the fire in our pulpits as the source of our greatness!
Our recent blog, about the feeble response of Christian leaders to the present madness in America, was widely accepted by believers, and just as widely rejected by leaders—celebrity leaders. Perhaps Tocqueville’s quote may help you understand why I hold them responsible for our national debacle. My severity toward them is not because I have a low opinion of pastors, it is because I have a high opinion of preaching. Like Alexis de Tocqueville, I believe anointed preaching to be the true source of our greatness, and bad preaching to be the true source of our weakness.
Preaching was never supposed to be like this, but it has been shallow for the last 25 years. It was supposed to convict, convince, equip, and launch disciples into secular society. Instead, modern preaching echoed what the world was already saying. Instead of bringing powerful Christians to a hurting world, these preachers brought the dysfunction of the world to believers. Modern preaching did not equip, but instead, it enabled. It did not utterly denounce sin—it negotiated with it, creating birth-defective converts.
The American church de Tocqueville encountered in 1835 had fire in the pulpit. It is because we do not have that fire in our pulpits today, that we have fires in our streets. Because preachers choose to tell soothing stories instead of proclaiming Truth, our young people believe lies and honor truly stupid ideas and follow truly evil leaders.
1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” Was there ever a hope, in our current church climate of creating sanctified hearts who could give answers?
I stand accused of being too hard on American preachers. I am rejected for placing too high a responsibility for our current disaster on their shoulders. Some of their whining baffles me. Celebrity preachers cannot have it both ways. They are the ones who accepted the lofty praise, superstar status, and wealth. Like athletes who got the big contract—these preachers were expected to perform. But when it came to saving a nation from wickedness, they were a bitter let down. You don’t call yourself “the anointed vessel for this hour”—and then fizzle, in this, America’s darkest hour.
Charles Finney wrote, “Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.” (The Decay of Conscience, 1873)
Perhaps the only cure for such preaching is to depopularize it and defund it. Perhaps the fault lies as much with the fans of these preachers. In my book, Vessels of Fire and Glory, I wrote about the Contaminated Crowd. They are described in glaring detail in 2 Timothy 4:2-4, “Proclaim the Word. Keep your sense of urgency in season and out of season. Reprove, admonish, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not tolerate sound instruction, but having ears itching (for something pleasing), they will gather to themselves teachers chosen to satisfy their own lusts, and will turn aside from hearing the Truth and wander off into man-made myths.”
There is a reason that so much preaching today is festooned with props, smoke, emotionalism and entertainment. Small wonder that the slightest manifestation of the Spirit is touted as a miracle. It is no surprise that repentance is seldom if ever called for. The devil has seen to it that the American Church was totally unprepared for the multiple onslaughts unleashed against it in 2020.
And yet, there is a glorious sign on the horizon! There is a hint that actual preaching may return. There are young men and women displaying dangerous tendencies, such as reading revival history. Young leaders are disenchanted with the attraction-church model. They are asking threatening questions, desiring old ways—the ways that dislodge devils and release true signs and wonders.
God is stirring hearts, disrupting plans and driving young leaders to the kind of fire we need—the fire that can make America good and great, once again.
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