Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The State of Evangelicalism and Preaching

The post is titled this way because the two are inextricably linked for as preaching goes so goes the church. After attending conferences, reading blogs and books, and listening to CDs you see the lamentable shape the church of Christ is in. However, I am neither pessimistic or optimistic about the current or future condition of the church. Looking back at the history of Israel and the history of the church the true believers have never been in the majority or ever been a major minority.

Looking back to the early church, the time of the reformation, the time of the Puritans and the great awakening (which many consider the golden age of the church) you see that false teaching abounded, persecution was common and often severe, but the church, though small, was strong, vibrant, and influential. What stands out about the church during these times is the quality of its preaching/teaching. The early church of course had the apostles, Timothy, Apollos, Epaphras, Stephen, Phillip, and Barnabas, but then came along men like Augustine, Chrysostom, and Clement. Then we had the reformation with Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli (and John Hus, the John the Baptist to Luther). In the Puritan age there are almost too many to mention, but we see John Owen, John Flavel, Jonathan Edwards, Richard Baxter, and Cotton Mather. Throughout these times we had the well-known, the less-known, and the unknown who were faithfully proclaiming the word of truth, truthfully.

I see the same thing today. In the crumbling of evangelicalism here in our country I believe we are seeing the purging of the church that will reveal the true church. We have many outstanding preachers that are well-known such as John McArthur, John Piper, R. C. Sproul, and Albert Mohler. We have less-known such as Philip Ryken, Sinclair Ferguson, Stephen Lawless, Mark Dever, and Ligon Duncan, and then we have the host of unknown, many of whom are entering the blogosphere. Much like the previously mentioned times we live in an age of pervasive false teaching and attacks from both within and outside of the church, and in this I find a strange comfort as I see that there is nothing new under the sun. As evangelicalism crumbles we will see the true church that is led by faithful preachers from the well-known to the unknown holding their ground, holding their doctrine, proclaiming the grace of their God and the power of His Christ. Paul says in I Corinthians 11:19 "For there must also be factions (hairesis-a divergent opinion or belief, from which we get our word heresy) among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you." Really, we should thank God for what is going on in evangelicalism in our land as it will separate and make obvious those among us who hold to and proclaim the truth and those who do not. Those who do not hold to the truth will no longer be hidden among us as reefs in our love feast, but will be made manifest for who they are and there will be a separation, a parsing if you will, of both the true and the false, the sheep and the goats.

In Philip Ryken's series "City on a Hill" (available through the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals) he talks about our time being a post-christian time. I believe he is right, but I also believe that our post-christian time is not any different than the pre-christian time of the early church. Small in number but large in faith, benign in the things of the world but bold in its confession, these men and women were those that turned the world upside down. I see in our present time well-known and lesser-known men who are standing firm for the pure truth of the word and proclaiming it as such, and I see many of us, the unknowns, who are in agreement with them, doing the same thing. While those who hold to the truth and the way of the truth are small in number compared to the whole of evangelicalism, God has always seemed pleased to work through small numbers to bring glory to Himself.


Greg Hewett said...

Morris, my dad shared your blog with me, and I have been keeping one eye on it. This is a good post. I appreciate you taking the time to do this. I have tried to read other Christian's blogs, but I can't. They are way to wordy. On the positive, I love that they are so active!

Because we do not talk much, I am curious about your context. You mention the crumbling of evangelicals. Could you expand on that a little more? I think I know what you mean, but I want to see if I see some of the same things that you do.

This post is encouraging. It encourages me to stick with the basics. I am often distracted by what we call BSO's in the software biz. Bright Shiny Objects are all over the place. We think it is new, and we have to change to reach this certain demographic. The reality is that there is nothing new. The other reality is that their is nothing perfect and fulfilling but Him.


Morris Brooks said...

Good to hear from you and glad you have been encouraged.

What I mean by evangelicalism crumbling is that the church in America is not changing the culture, but is being changed by the culture. The culture is shaping the church and the church is seeking its direction from the culture instead of from its head, Christ. The church is no longer peculiar and particular, but patronizing and puny. The church has let in the trojan horse named relevant and progressive, and its soldiers are attacking the walls from the inside causing them to crumble.