Preface: I realize that in this hustle and bustle world we live in most people do not have time or would rather not make time to read. This is even more so a fact for random articles from an unknown and unpopular writer like myself. Because of this I wanted to make my articles more accessible to the average American, so I will begin recording them and embedding a link in each one. I hope that this will draw more people to give a listen, give feedback, and help me as I continue to develop my writing and my doctrine. Now, let's begin.
The church of America is starving for the Word of God to be preached. Other than this just being a feeling, is there any way for us to tangibly measure this statement? I say yes. Western Christianity is in decline. Pew Research Center shows that in 2008, 78% of U.S. adults identified as Christian. That number in 2019 was 65%. With the pandemic challenging people's faith in a "good God" and churches being quick to shut their doors and not reopen, I would wager that number today is around 60% which would be a 23% decline. Read that again. 1 in 4 people in just over a decade have renounced the Christian faith. Now, there is an underlying positive note in this statistic. I'm under the belief that God, who does all things for the good of those who are called according to His purpose, has done one massive favor for the advancement of the kingdom of His son through the pandemic: purged all of the false believers from the church. This could be an article in itself so I won't linger.
However, I would like to linger on a 30,000 foot negative implication of this statistic. America is continuing it's downward spiral from Christianity into paganism. I would not be shocked in the least to see that number go from 65% in 2019 to under 50% in 2035. Christianity is a dying religion in the West and though there are multiple reasons for this decay, we will focus on one moving forward: preaching. Going back to my original question, "Is there any way for us to tangibly measure this statement?", the measure is expositional preaching. When Spirit filled, Christ exalting, God honoring preaching takes place straight from the Word, we are guaranteed by Scripture that the Spirit will move to regenerate those whom have been called. "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" (Romans 10:14) When our preaching is filled with self help points and self exalting pick-me-ups, we are not pointing towards Christ who demands self-denial first and foremost.
It should come as no shock to anyone that in the face of the decline of American Christianity, we are simultaneously seeing a decline in the morality of this nation. I'm not a prophet but I can tell you which way the wind is blowing: in absence of a reformation, it will be illegal (federally) to call someone living in sexual sin to repentance by the year 2030. How do I know that? Look no further than our Canadian brothers to the north. It is at our doorstep quite literally. By the way, a quick google search will show you that it is already illegal in 20 states & the District of Columbia. This is a big deal because the law, at least the wording in this new Canadian bill, is open to interpretation. When you think conversion therapy you may think Mike Pence and electric chairs, but conversion therapy may also include a teacher telling her students, one of which identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, that she loves her husband and children and the concept of a nuclear family. "I felt as if I were being pushed to convert to cis-gendered life" claims the student. This slippery slope shines forth clearly in the Canadian hate speech law which essentially allows the victim to dictate what hate speech is. I could go on, but let's get to the solution. The solution is the gospel, which is brought forth in the preaching of the Word. But what exactly is preaching?
What is preaching? First, I will tell you what it is not restricted to but what it does more so relate to. Preaching is not restricted to having a seminary degree standing behind a pulpit every Sunday. Preaching is not restricted to open-air preaching where one stands on a milk crate with a megaphone demanding repentance. Modern, lukewarm evangellyfish have reduced preaching to the former because it gives them an excuse not to do it. "I ain't no preacher, don't ask me anything about the Bible." We live in the comfort of this self-imposed definition as a crutch for us to not have to exert time and energy into reading the Bible on our own. This is frightening that the masses are deceived in this manner because scripture is clear about preaching and who is to do it.
The Greek word for preaching in the Romans passage mentioned earlier, as far as my untrained Greek mind can tell, literally means to proclaim the good news or to speak boldly. Does that sound like something that is only restricted to the pulpit or Sunday mornings? I would be astonished if that's what Paul meant in his original purpose for Romans. In fact, I can assure you it isn't just from the context. So, if preaching simply means the proclamation of good news, who is to preach? Everyone is to preach. Let's not get too technical here concerning ecclesiology. I am distinguishing between being a pastor/elder who preaches at a church and someone who literally preaches, or proclaims the gospel. We are all called to go and make disciples of the nations which naturally requires the Word to be preached, or spoken boldly. Christ's kingdom does not unfold on this earth without Christians and Christians are born from the Spirit working through the preached Word.
So then, what does this preaching look like. Maybe you think you don't have time to prepare a sermon each week. "When can I wrangle people up so that they are all together at once that way I can boldly proclaim Christ as Lord?" Stop! We mustn't allow ourselves to be bound by our wrong definition of preaching. Once again, preaching is just the proclamation of the good news, that news being the gospel. You could pass a coworker on the way to the restroom and simply say "Christ died and rose again" and you are proclaiming some mighty good news! Next time you have a small talk conversation with someone at the checkout line, don't squander the opportunity to leave them with these life changing words: Jesus Christ will never die again -or- Jesus Christ is Lord over all creation. Hey, it may be awkward but chances are you will never see that person again so what does it matter? As Christian's we have to put aside whatever the driving force is behind our reluctance to preach the good news of Christ.
I have often reflected on why I am reluctant in certain situations to do something like talk to a stranger in the grocery store line about Christ's lordship over his grocery cart and that $18/lb pack of bacon. I know for me it is rooted in pride. There are times in this body of sin (Romans 7:24) where I feel like I won't speak up because my flesh agrees with the world that Christ isn't supreme. "Why talk about Jesus to this guy Jerod? You think he really cares about Christ? It doesn't matter anyways, someone will tell him if he doesn't already know." Another part of my reluctance is being mentally and spiritually lazy. Maybe it was a long day at work and you swing by the grocery store to grab that last ingredient your wife needs for supper. Someone says something to you to create small talk while you're deciding whether to get the $1.39 eggs or the $3.50 cage free. This person is clearly craving conversation for whatever reason it may be. "Ha, that's crazy" you tell them as you head to the register with your cage free eggs. You do this, I do this, because of laziness to commit to a conversation, and selfishness to hurry up and get out of the store and home to your family. But have you ever considered that a five minute conversation with that person might have saved their soul?
One thing the apostles weren't was reluctant. They were constantly seeking opportunity to be in front of the biggest crowds possible, which is why they went to the temple everyday in the immediate aftermath of Pentecost. Here they knew they would have large crowds of Jews, God's people, that they could preach the good news of their long awaited Messiah! The inspiration for this post came out of Acts chapter two. In verse five we read that there were masses of people from every nation under heaven dwelling in Jerusalem that had come there for Passover. So, in verse fourteen Peter wastes no time in seizing the opportunity to proclaim Christ as Lord. The more people the merrier for the apostles. Consider Paul who labored in the synagogues where the Jews gathered in the cities outside of Jerusalem. Or, the time in Acts 19 where the idol makers were mad that so many were converting to Christianity through Paul's preaching that they were leaving behind their idols that gave these men an income. They started a riot in the town in the name of Paul's conduct, essentially wishing to rough him up for it. But what does Paul do? "..Paul wished to go in among the crowd.." This man didn't care if he was about to be "whooped up on", he saw a crowd of people and surely considered that they also needed to know Christ as Lord!!
Repercussion and Reward
These men knew the importance of the call and did not turn away like Jonah. Like Jonah, there are repercussions of withholding the gospel. Paul himself said, "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16) Have you ever considered that? Has the thought ever crossed your mind of having to explain to Christ on that day of judgement why evangelizing just wasn't that high on your priority list? Let's examine two passages that show the repercussions of not preaching the gospel.
Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
Paul claims that because he declared the whole counsel of God to the Ephesians, he was innocent of their blood. It can thus be deduced that in Paul's Spirit inspired mind, had he not preached the whole counsel of God their he would have thus been responsible.
If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
In verse 2-7 God described Ezekiel as the watchman. When he says here that his blood will be required at your hand he is talk to Ezekiel. Why is the blood required? ".. and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way.." Simple enough here. Further study on this may show a more defined repercussion but for sake of our time here I think we will just agree that there is some form of judgment from not preaching the good news.
Speaking of good news, there are eternal rewards when you preach the gospel! For starters, you potentially save a soul from eternal damnation under the wrath of the lamb and away from God's common grace. What greater reward than to be a broken vessel in carrying God's Word to those whom he has called? To be a part of God's sovereign plan as it plays out through history, as He calls His people out of darkness and into the marvelous light, is an incredible reward.
Another benefit is that you are constantly reminding yourself of the gospel. We are sustained in our daily lives by the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 that the gospel is that in which we (Christians) stand. It isn't some past spoken word that regenerates us and goes with the wind like a leaf never to be seen again. It is the power of God unto salvation. It strengthens us against the ploy of the enemy. When we battle our fallen nature we remind ourselves that Christ is victorious and that my salvation doesn't depend on my work in this moment or my work to come but His finished work on the cross.
I think of the famous quote by William Tyndale when he said: " I will cause a boy who drives a plow to know more of the scriptures than the pope." William Tyndale was the little ball that started rolling at the top of the snow mass that became the avalanche of the Reformation. His biggest contribution was translating the Bible into English. The concern of their day was that the common man didn't know the bible because he didn't have a copy of one. They trusted in the Catholic Church to read and interpret scripture for them and they never second guessed it. Besides, they were farmers and blacksmiths and other tradesmen, it wasn't their job to know the Bible. However, the world was turned up on its head when the common man got the Bible in his hands in a language he could read. Why? Because he read the Words of life and he took them and he preached it to the next man, who preached it to the next man, who preached it to the next man.
I will leave you with this: our number one calling as Christians outside of "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37) is to preach the gospel and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). We have confidence in the great commission that Christ is Lord now and not at some distant point in the future. All things are subject to Him now and not at some distant point in the future. His kingdom is now and not at some distant point in the future. All authority is his now.. and not some distant point in the future. We will be successful in the evangelization of the world if we are faithful to His promised Word. We have confidence that not one person more or one person less will come than that which the father has called. I bid you to go and talk about Christ now.