I saw a tweet this evening by Scott Douglas that started me thinking. (He was responding to Josh King who was responding to Mark Dever.]
Remember when we lost our bananas over daVinci Code. Or Rob Bell. Or the Emergent Church. Or Teletubbies. Or the TNIV. Or taking Baptist out of names. Or Great Commission Baptists. Or RHE. 20 years of “greatest threats” and Jesus still reigns.
— Scott Douglas (@ScottMDouglas) April 15, 2021
I am closer to my 64th birthday than my 63rd, and have been a part of Southern Baptist churches since 9 months before I was born. My dad was a pastor, mom played the piano and organ, and Immanuel was as much my home as 449 Elder Lane. I have never regularly attended a church that wasn’t SBC and I’ve been pastoring for 40 years. In that time, it is amazing the things number of threats I have seen come to the church – serious threats against the very existence of the church, or so I was told. Some were on a major scale and others, today, seem remarkably petty. What they all have in common is that in my years of involvement in the SBC, I have heard someone quivering over the future of the church, the Gospel, or our great nation because of this plethora of threats.
- In my youth, the threat was communism, which was going to enslave us all and impose atheism on everyone.
- We also worried about the nuclear bomb. I am old enough to know how to hide under a desk to protect myself if the commies pushed the send button.
- We were very concerned in my youth about those great cultural sins that stole young people from the church and plunged them into darkness – pool (with a capital t, and that rhymes with p…), mixed bathing (that’s swimming with the opposite sex), playing cards, and a host of other worldly temptations.
- Of course, the worst temptation of all was…gulp…dancing. Young people who gyrated to music would soon be in the back seats of cars doing things they shouldn’t.
- While they were in those cars, they would be listening to ROCK MUSIC, recorded in a studio in hell. The devil’s music would lead them into the clutches of Satan himself, especially if you played the music backward. Folks, I kid you not, the backmasking thing was a BIG DEAL back in the day. Kids were going to hell because of backmasking.
- I wish I could remember all the TV shows we’d been breathlessly warned would destroy our nation. Hill Street Blues – it is amazing that the nation survives 40 years after its debut.
- Dungeons and dragons. Heaven help those poor souls who played a game and were dragged straight to perdition.
- No Christian could watch an R-rated movie without shipwrecking his or her soul.
- Every election since 1980 has been “the most important election of our lifetime” and each time, “the nation hangs in the balance.”
- I remember a member of my church telling me that we absolutely HAD to do something about the new set of books that was enslaving children in Satanism and witchcraft – the Harry Potter books. Avada Kedavra.
You can add your own to the list, can’t you? How many times has someone told you that there was “an unprecedented threat to the future of the church?” If we didn’t “take a stand” against this evil that is spreading, we would be swept away into oblivion.
When someone uses fear to motivate you, they are generally trying to sell you something, get something from you, or pressure you to do something they want you to do – which may or may not be in your interests.
Remember 2 Timothy 1:7?
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.
True leaders and men of God do not threaten people or motivate them through fear. We do not fan the flames of panic and terror or seek to turn everyone outside our little group into the enemy. We walk in the power of God, seek to love one another (even our enemies), and demonstrate sound judgment.
When someone is constantly hitting the panic button, saying “this is the worst threat to the gospel ever” or “the future of the church is at stake” or making other such hyperbolic statements, the following is generally true.
1. They are seeking to control you by manipulation. They do not trust the Holy Spirit enough to simply tell you the truth and trust God to move in your heart. They have to create fear and panic that “if we don’t act now,” or “if we don’t elect Mr. X” or “if this happens” then, in the words of the oldie song, “It’s the end of the world as we know it.”
2. They generally have a faulty understanding of church history. There are, in fact, genuine threats to the church and to the gospel. Christians should be warned of those, but we need not use these manipulative fear-factor tactics to do it. God’s people have the Spirit to help them understand the truth. The church has been under attack pretty much since the day the Spirit separated as tongues of fire in the Upper Room. The church is ALWAYS under threat. This new threat isn’t “the greatest ever” and we need not whip up hysteria to manipulate and control God’s people. That is not leadership – it is abuse. When you trust the power of God, you do not have to bully people with fear.
3. They lack faith in God and in his Spirit. God’s Spirit can convince and convict in the Body of Christ and doesn’t need us whipping people into a lather with hyperbole. We need not manipulate people like that. Trust God. Here’s the simple fact. I think Christians should use discernment on some of the things I mentioned before as we seek to walk under the Lordship of Christ and glorify him in all things. . You know, “in the world not of the world.”
Still, the cross, which SEEMED like the enemy’s greatest victory, sealed his destruction. Since Pentecost, Satan has been opposing the church, sending wolves among the sheep, counterfeiting the work of God, and seeking in every way to undermine the church and the kingdom of God.
He fails. Jesus wins. After 2000 years, Satan is still a loser. He lost yesterday. He will lose today. And he will lose tomorrow. He won’t stop trying until Jesus kicks him eternally into the Lake of Fire and we join hands in the heavenly choir to sing “na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na, hey-hey-hey, Goodbye!” I can’t wait.
Until then, Let’s stop acting like Jesus is in trouble. Let’s stop acting like we are the only thing standing between the Gospel and destruction. And for the love of all that is holy, let’s stop manipulating people with panic and hysteria to control them.
God did not give us a spirit of fear, or manipulation, or hysteria. Our God is too big and his gospel is too strong for us to cheapen it with tactics like that.
If you don’t agree with me, it’s the end of the world as we know it.