This post is based on the book The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan O. Hatch. Hatch outlines the influence of Christianity in the early United States.
I recently had the honor of preaching at an outdoor church service in Garretson, SD. The main point of my message was “Religion without relationship brings destruction.” In other words, if we practice cold religion without an encounter with the Living God, we will deceive ourselves about our relationship with God.
As I was teaching through the text, I noticed an elderly couple close to the front row. I could tell that they were very religious; I thought they may have been offended by my message.
After the service, this elderly couple approached me. I was preparing myself to be scolded for the harshness of my message towards dead religion. I noticed their countenance was one of joy, not anger. With an almost prophetic pronouncement, they quietly told me, “I wish every pastor had as much passion as you do when they preach! Most pastors seem almost bored!”
It didn’t always use to be this way. There was a time when pastors were passionate about the Gospel and zealous to make converts… especially in the early U.S.
Nathan O. Hatch explains why this passion faded, “The allure of respectability dampened the original fire of the religious populist.”
Pastor, you are NOT called to be a professional. Ministry is not a career with the purpose of advancing to the next big church… it is a calling from God! In the name of “respectability” many ministers have drenched their passion in the freezing water of professionalism. Rather than heralding the glorious truths of Scripture, pastors trudge through a text without it first interfering in their own lives. The result is clear; our pulpits are filled with men and women who are too cowardly to boldly proclaim the Gospel. They are content with hanging pieces of paper with faded ink on their walls to demonstrate their calling to ministry.
THIS IS RIDICULOUS!
The Bible is the most incredible work of literature ever written! All of Scripture is “inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).”
If you put people to sleep when you teach the Bible… please stop.
If you view ministry as a profession rather than a calling… please stop.
If you seek the praise of man rather than the approval of God… please stop.
If you have no passion for this INCREDIBLE message called the Gospel… please stop.
Friends, we do not need more professionals. We need more preachers who will teach the whole counsel of God’s Word and call His people to repentance, forgiveness, and grace. We don’t need churches which are monuments of the 1950s – we need communities of believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, bringing renewal to the utter brokenness around them. We NEED Christians, who are no longer content living a Christianized version of the American Dream, to take up their cross and actually follow Jesus… EVEN if it means ridicule, death, and persecution.
Do you disagree with me? Does Paul’s description of himself and the other leaders of the early church seem professional?
“For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.” – 1 Cor. 4:9-13