Friday, March 18, 2011

Evangelize or Fossilize?

“A church that will not evangelize will fossilize.”  I am told that this was a famous quote by Dr. Harold Sightler, a former pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Greensville, SC, now deceased.  I did not have the blessing of being directly influenced by Dr. Sightler, but I know many Christians who were.  That quote of his has “stuck with me.”  I first heard it at a missions conference in the Fall of 2010, and it has caused me to think much about the state of Christianity today.

My calling in life as a missionary gives me a unique vantage point.  I visit well over a hundred churches a year while on deputation, and I get to see churches in all sorts of geographical regions and even different cultural settings.  All total, I have been in no less than 300 different churches (but probably much more), and in some cases, I have been in some of those churches many times under different pastors.  As a result, I have seen a certain spectrum of American Christianity within Baptist churches and have noticed many things.

Now, many pastors look down on missionaries and most do not give missionaries much hearing.  Some it seems are on an ego trip of narcissistic, vain glory and empire building, and so missionaries do nothing for them.  So this may be viewed as just the ramblings of a random, nobody missionary (and tis true, I am a nobody – but I do serve a Somebody!); nonetheless, it seems that quote by Dr. Sightler is very true, “A church that will not evangelize will fossilize.”  Many IFB churches have correct doctrine, they run in the “right” circles – but something is lacking:  no evangelistic zeal to reach their communities.  They have ceased from actively going out to win the lost.

American Christianity has become fossilized in many churches.  Most Christians are focused on saving for vacation, retirement and Christmas (or paying off Christmas afterwards with their favorite credit card); then following their hobbies of golf, hunting, fishing, etc. and have gotten into the vicious cycle of taking Johnny and Susie to practices and all their ball games so they feel like better parents.  And then we take off for church 2 or 3 times a week (at best) to worship God so the pastor doesn’t come calling to see if we are OK.  And that is it.  We feel we are good Christians, we have arrived, but truth is we have fossilized into a rut of weekly routine and don’t even realize it.

We have created a ritualistic machine with no heart for the true essence of Christian living and purpose, to obey God and give Him glory.  We have a routine, a habit and a schedule, but lost one of the key areas of Christian focus that Christ commanded in the New Testament – evangelism.  We have left evangelism to a select class of Christian “specialists” and pay them to evangelize so that we can live life.  It’s almost like we have created a mercenary system.  We pay somebody else to fulfill our duty so that we appease our conscience.

We can shout and rejoice in Camp Meetings and revivals over the great salvation we have but really many should weep for the obstinate disobedience prevalent in so many churches of our day.  I’m afraid the sloppy soul winning of a few have scared the majority of IFB Christians to shy away from true evangelism in their communities and as a result the commission of our Lord goes unheeded, society has no salt and multitudes go to Hell.  American Christianity is fossilizing before our very eyes at a time when the message of the Gospel is needed most.

I pray that America sees revival – but revival won’t sweep America until the Christians are reconciled to God and live to fulfill his will and purpose in their lives.  In fact, revival in America is seen by some to be the salvation of many lost souls, multitudes baptized, the return of conservative Christian values to our communities, etc. but that is not revival necessarily.  That may be the fruit of revival, but that is not revival.  Revival is when slumbering, dead, disobedient Christianity comes back into a right relationship with their Lord and lives for Him daily according to His Word. 

Instead, the heart of Christianity is as cold as a rock in many American churches today because they have fossilized.  They have lost their first love.  Repentance needs to spread throughout churches and Christians need to renew their spiritual walk with the Lord. 

2Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”