Archive for September 2nd, 2009

Defeating Defeatism in our Churches

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Have you noticed the spirit of defeatism that pervades Christianity today?  It seems that many fundamental Christians are assuming that the battle is lost.  They’re resigned to the idea that Bible-believing churches are no longer “relevant” to the world and that we are destined to get smaller and smaller with every passing day.

I can understand why some fundamental Christians would believe that.  We watch around us as good churches fail and close their doors.  We watch as worldliness slithers its way into good, solid churches until it pervades and conquers them.  We watch as people discard long, firmly-held convictions about the Bible and step toward the left into positions more palatable to mainstream, worldly Christians.

During these past two years, I have seen more compromise and failure in fundamental churches and Christians than ever before in my life.  I have seen and heard of good churches closing their doors because there aren’t enough people left.  Worldly music has crept into churches I thought would never fall into the rock and roll death trap.  Churches, in numbers I have never seen before, are discarding their King James conviction.

Christians are panting after the world, drooling uncontrollably, yearning for the approbation and acceptance of a fallen, violent, sensual, hateful, angry, licentious, sin-hardened society.  And, they’re standing up in church on Sunday trying to justify this addiction to a sin-ridden culture as an attempt to be “relevant.”

Once solid churches are looking for the money, the crowds, and the social position afforded by bringing worldly culture — including fleshy music, sensual dress, and faddish theology — into their midst.

It’s no surprise, when you consider that, as a preacher, standing firm on traditional doctrine, Bible truths, wholesome music, and the Bible versions issue (which is really about the underlying question of the very existence of God), often means having a small church, little prominence in the community, and a small or no salary.

Meanwhile, if you bring in just a little bit of the world into the church, you can get a larger crowd, more respectability,  and a better salary.

It’s an easy choice … if your motive is a larger crowd, more respectability, and a better salary.  Based upon what I have seen in the past couple years, this does appear to be the motive of the majority of preachers.  Few are willing to drive an older model car, live in a modest house, buy their clothes at Goodwill, work outside jobs, and pray in money day-by-day for daily expenses — just to pastor a small congregation at a little church that barely takes in enough in tithes and offerings to keep the doors open and the lights on. [If this is you, contact me so we can pray for each other and encourage each other.]

One after another, the churches fall.  It’s like watching a California mudslide.  One by one, two by two, and three by three they fall, plummeting down slippery slopes to the certain destruction that always results from worldliness.  I have never seen a church come back. Once a little worldliness is introduced, such as the shallow “praise” choruses, the mudslide increasingly gains momentum until it pulls the house down.

Meanwhile, the only media coverage fundamental Christians get is when a preacher molests a little boy or some self-promoter prays for the President to get brain cancer.   Where are the TV stations when a wife-beater gets saved and a family turns from violence to peace?  Where are the newspapers when a drunk gets saved and becomes a productive member of society?  Where is the media when a man gets his heart right under some old-fashioned preaching and throws away his pornography or becomes a better employee?

It is so easy to despair, and I understand why fundamental Christians often do. But, if we entertain a spirit of defeatism, then defeat is certain.

The fact is, we will only be defeated if we accept defeat.

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

God never asks us to accept defeat.  We are — at the very least — to stand and face the enemy.  In fact, when we read about the “armour of God” in Ephesians chapter 6, we find that the weapon and armor are only effective when we are facing the enemy.  When we retreat, we are exposed and not completely protected.  That “shield of faith” can no longer quench the “fiery darts of the wicked.”  We are vulnerable when retreating, which explains why that is when most Christians fall.

When we begin to assume defeat or a defeatist mentality, then the enemy has us right where they want us.   We are strong when we stand and face the enemy, Sword in hand, clad in the armor of God, refusing to give ground.  We are weak and vulnerable when we retreat.

God not only gives us the admonition to stand against the enemy, but also gives us the armor to defend against them.   Plus, He gives us the ultimate weapon to pierce the enemy’s own defenses.  Why do we sit down and let the enemy move ahead?

I’ll answer that question in a moment.  First I want to share a quote from a famous general.  I love this quote, and you may have heard it from me before.

In World War I, Field Marshall Foch was in command of the French forces defending against the German invasion.  France was pervaded by a spirit of defeatism, much as our fundamental churches are today.  Everyone expected the enemy to roll into the country and take Paris, as they had a few years earlier during the Franco-Prussian war.  The Germans seemed unstoppable, and there was little optimism left in France.

As the Germans advanced, Field Marshall Foch wired this message to Paris:

“I am hard-pressed on my right. My center is failing. It is impossible to move. The situation is excellent. I attack!”

And he did.  Despite his seemingly untenable situation, he launched an offensive instead of retreating and the enemy assault ground to a halt.  For the rest of the War, the lines between the two armies moved only a few hundred feet.  His decision to attack instead of letting the enemy push him back or wither his army away through assault and attrition saved the nation.

I believe that our Captain is calling for us to attack today.  I believe that He wants us to advance, not retreat or whither away.

We look at circumstances and think, “These are the Last Days.  It’s all over.  The enemy is winning.  More churches will close or go liberal.  Fewer people will have the character to stand for sound doctrine and holy living.”  Then, we make decisions accordingly.  We accept defeat as if it is inevitable, and by accepting it, defeat does become inevitable.

But God is calling for us to advance.

I don’t believe that this is a time to roll up the carpet and lock the doors.  And, it’s certainly not a time to become softer in our preaching.  In fact, if anything, we should become bolder and harder in our preaching.  These are Jeremiah days.

Here’s the problem.  Fundamental Christians themselves have become so enamored of this world and this nation’s culture that they don’t care to stand for the Old Time Religion anymore.

Our Captain sounds the horn and calls for  advance, but few join Him.  The bulk of us are sitting back in the trenches, our weapons unready, listening to our CDs, watching our TV shows, planning our futures, counting our money, promoting ourselves, surfing the Internet, or just plain worrying about whether or not the Captain really has the resources He needs to advance.

The Captain calls, and a handful of men and women grab their weapons and climb up out of the trenches, and charge across the muddy battlefield at His side.  The majority stays in the trenches where they don’t have to deal with the enemy fire, or the mud, or the other inconveniences of Battle.  They are neither answering their Captain’s call to arms nor supporting their brothers and sisters who are trying to advance against the enemy.

And, if the enemy gets too close to their trench, they pick up their CDs, their TV, and their money, and they retreat back to the next line of trenches.  But this is where many of them fall — not advancing against the enemy (when their God-given armor protects them), but when they are giving ground to the enemy and retreating, arms full of this world’s things.  The more encumbered they are with the things of this world, the more likely they are to be wounded.

The enemy has no problem shooting you in the back.  In fact, that’s about the only place they can shoot you.

The faithful Christians are advancing into enemy territory.  They are crying out for reinforcements.  They are pleading for supplies.  Some are pinned down by enemy fire. Some are engaged in fierce combat.  Some are throwing up new fortifications in new territory, freshly taken from the enemy.  They are depending upon their brothers and sisters to be behind them, or beside them, supporting them.

But where is the support?  Where are the rest of the troops?  They are back in the trenches, too enthralled by this world to move from the trenches to the battlefield, while their faithful brothers and sisters are being wounded, enduring unrelenting assault, or finding themselves simply unable to advance because so few of the troops showed up for the battle.

Then, many of the faithful begin giving up their gains, considering them to be too small to be significant, or considering their positions to be untenable without the support of their brothers and sisters.

If I could give only a 10-second message to all King James, fundamental Baptist, it would be this:  “We are hard pressed by the left.  Our center is failing.  Modernism and worldliness are flooding in from every direction. It’s time to attack!”

This is a time for advance, not retreat.  It’s time to solidify our positions and to use them as a base to achieve greater gains.  It’s time to search out the faithful brothers and sisters who are serving in isolated, under-supported positions and support them.

And, brothers and sisters, it’s time to put more resources into reaching America  for Christ. International missions is necessary and it is a wonderful privilege to support a missionary bringing the Gospel to a foreign land, but we need to start shoring up our own foundations here in America.  If we don’t make some significant gains here in our own country during the next decade, we will not be able to support international missions anymore.

When ninety percent of our troops here in America are in retreat from or falling in the face of the enemy’s advance, we need to redouble the effort and resources for the missionaries serving right here in our own nation.  We need to support the rescue missions, the domestic church planters, and small churches at a much higher level if we seriously expect to make advances or even hold our own in America.  If we begin making gains again in our nation, then a massive expansion of foreign missions actually becomes feasible.

The fact is that we currently have the resources in our midst to both support foreign missions at its current level and to dramatically expand “home” missions.  But, those resources are tied up at the moment.  They are tied up in the big houses and cars of Christians who are obsessed with being “middle class” while the country around them is going to Hell.  They are tied up in the bank accounts, hobbies, properties, boats, clothing, jewelry, and other encumbrances of Christians who have forgotten that we are pilgrims in a foreign land.

We have become much too comfortable in this world.  We are striving to achieve this world’s norms instead of the next world’s goals.

This is a time to advance.  Defeat is not an option — in fact, I’ve read the last chapter of the book and see that defeat never happens.  Our Captain wins this war.

Today, He has given us, as a whole, the resources and people we need to make great gains.  Let’s cut the cords that bind us to this world, climb out of the trenches, and charge the enemy at the side of our Captain.

The outlook seems gloomy when we look at circumstances, but remember that a handful of Christians who left the upper room filled with the Spirit — the cross before them and the world behind them — eventually conquered the Roman empire.  They were ready to die to advance the Gospel.  They gave up everything that this world offered them, in order to advance the Gospel.  They didn’t care what the world thought, and they didn’t encumber themselves with the things of this world.  The opposition seemed overwhelming with the whole world against those 120 faithful, but they nonetheless charged the enemy lines and won, planting churches all over the known world.

We can do that today, too.  We can climb out of the pews and start new ministries.  We can bring in more on the buses.  We can go out across the countryside planting little churches (and don’t forget that 2-3 little churches can be pastored by one preacher — that model worked for our ancestors on the frontiers, why not today?) across this nation instead of giving over huge swathes of territory to the enemy.

Don’t discount small churches.  A small church is always better than no church — where there is even a little church, there is hope. Where there is none, there is no hope.  Only darkness.

Let’s follow our Captain out of the trenches.  Let’s advance.