Although most pastors believe the Bible speaks to the critical issues of our day, less than 10% of today’s pastors, according to a new poll by George Barna, are willing to speak to today’s critical issues from their pulpits. The reason given by contemporary churchmen for their ecclesiastical dumbness is their concern that addressing any current and controversial issue may result in less attendance at church services and less money in church offering plates.
If you ask me, it’s a coon calling a possum a varmint when George Barna starts criticizing pastors for failing to address from their pulpits the controversial issues of our day. After all, Barna is much to blame for the consumer mentality that has captured the contemporary church in America. Through his research and polling he helped spearhead the seeker-sensitive church growth movement, which taught Christians to peddle the Gospel the same way Hoover does vacuum cleaners. Therefore, when today’s pastors lamentably gauge the success of their churches by “attendance, giving, number of programs, number of staff, and square footage,” they are simply accessing their churches in the same way business owners do their companies. Isn’t this what Barna taught pastors to do? So how does he get away with turning around and criticizing pastors who’ve followed his advice for failing to speak out on the critical issues of our day, simply because doing so will “keep people from being in the seats…from giving money [and] from attending programs”? If you ask me, George Barna is now ranting and raving at a monster of his own making.
A few years ago, Barna and his good friend Bill Hybels, the pastor of Chicago’s Willow Creek Community Church, the flagship of the seeker-sensitive church growth movement, were forced by Barna’s own research to painfully confess that the church under their seeker-sensitive tutelage had not gained ground and influence in the world, but lost it. Barna’s research incontrovertibly proved that the seeker-sensitive church model is only adept at drawing crowds, not at making disciples. As Focus on the Family reported, “If you simply want a crowd, the ‘seeker-sensitive’ model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it’s a bust.”
In response to the disturbing findings of Barna’s recent poll on modern-day mealy-mouthed preachers, Chuck Baldwin, a radio broadcaster and former presidential candidate, wrote the following in an article entitled: Odds Are that Your Pastor is Keeping the Truth from You Instead of Preaching It.
“That 90% of America’s pastors are not addressing any of the salient issues affecting Christian people’s political or societal lives should surprise no one. It has been decades since even a sizable minority of pastors have bothered to educate and inform their congregations as to the Biblical principles relating to America’s political, cultural and societal lives…America’s malaise is directly due to the deliberate disobedience of America’s pastors—and the willingness of the Christians in the pews to tolerate the disobedience of their pastor. Nothing more! Nothing less! When Paul wrote his own epitaph, it read, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.’ (II Timothy 4:7) He didn’t say, ‘I had a large congregation, we had big offerings, we had a lot of programs, I had a large staff, and we had large facilities.’
It is time for Christians to acknowledge that these ministers are not pastors; they are CEOs. They are not Bible teachers; they are performers. They are not shepherds; they are hirelings. It is also time for Christians to be honest with themselves: do they want a pastor who desires to be faithful to the Scriptures, or do they want a pastor who is simply trying to be ‘successful?’”
Years ago the famous Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote the following about his search for America’s greatness: “I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests—and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning—and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!” Well, the flame has gone out in our pulpits and today’s America has ceased from being either good or great.
As I’ve been saying for years, there is no way to grow a big church preaching the pure and unadulterated truth in today’s truth-regurgitating world. All true preachers of God’s truth today, just like the Apostle Paul, as well as all true preachers of God’s truth throughout time, will be persecuted by the world, never popular within it. Both our Lord and the Apostle Paul assured us of this (John 15:18-21; 2 Timothy 3:12). Contrary to popular opinion in today’s contemporary church, the Apostle Paul taught that the distinguishing mark of a true man of God was his suffering for Christ’s sake at the hands of this world, not his being seen within it as a worldly success.
The criteria Paul gave for a true minister of God was a minister, like himself, that was “pure from the blood of all men” because he “shunned not to declare…the [whole] counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27). Interestingly, and most relevant to our day and time, Paul immediately proceeded from his characterization of the true minister of Christ to caution the church about a coming influx of false ministers of Christ. They, unlike true ministers of Christ, would “enter” the church as “grievous wolves…speaking perverse things” in order “to draw away disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:28-30). Far from faithfully feeding the flock, these hirelings are unsparing of the flock of the Good Shepherd in their pursuit of selfish ambition.
George Barna’s research proves that there are many false ministers of Christ in modern-day pulpits. These wolves in sheep’s clothing are attempting to build themselves a church and reputation rather than being used by Christ to build His church and magnify His name. All of this reminds me of a quote credited to the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”