America was built of the strength of its churches and will not survive as a free nation without the powerful word of God being preached from their pulpits.
Ironically, the night before I read Yarbrough’s column I scanned my Gospel Library app on my tablet and read a talk titled “Spiritual famine,” given in October 1972 by Howard W. Hunter.
Hunter began by quoting Amos 8:11-12 that reads: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they (the people) shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.”
I believe this scripture addresses Yarbrough’s observations regarding today’s declining church membership. If Hunter believed Amos’s quote applied to his generation of 1972, I wonder how much more it applies to our 2012 generation.
Hunter then quoted from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s address to an 1838 Harvard theological graduating class.
Emerson told the graduates: “And it is my duty to say to you that the need was never greater of new revelation than now. … It is the office of a true teacher to show us that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake. … Men have come to speak of … revelation as somewhat long ago given and done, as if God were dead.”
What would the world be like today if more pastors would follow Emerson’s advice?
Hunter then quoted Dr. Robert Gordon Sproul, former president of the University of California for 28 years, who in addressing a group of religious leaders told them: “We have the peculiar spectacle of a nation, which to a limited extent practices Christianity without actively believing in Christianity. We are asked to turn to the church for enlightenment but when we do we find that the voice of the church is not inspired. The voice of the church today is the echo of our own voices. … The way out is the sound of a voice, not our voice. … It is the task of the pastors to hear this voice, cause us to hear it and tell us what it says. … Without it we are no more capable of saving the earth than we were capable of creating it in the first place.”
Would any university president dare utter these words today — in any setting? I think not. But his words are more relevant today that at any time in America’s history.
Hunter’s last non-biblical quote was from an article published in Christianity Today in October 1970 written by Louis Cassels, a senior editor of United Press International, who didn’t mince his words. He said people “are sick and tired of being told what they can’t believe. They want to know what, if anything, they can believe,” then added, “and many churches haven’t been doing a very good job of answering that question,” closing with: “if you persist in handing out stones when people ask for bread, they’ll finally quit coming to the bakery.”
Yarbrough may want to pass these quotes on to his committee members. It is good advice. I would add one thing — get your people involved — especially your young people — they want to be involved in building God’s Kingdom here on earth.
Prepare the youth to serve missions where they will walk in Christ’s footsteps in serving others and learning leadership skills needed to lead their families and church in the future.
Yesterday at church I talked with an 18-year-old who just received his mission call to serve two years in Chile; listened to a 16-year-old give his first talk, on tithing, and a young lady sing her first solo.
They are learning of themselves and of Christ “line upon line and precept upon precept.” Missions follow four years of early morning seminar classes where the youth study the scriptures and doctrines of Christ and learn “God is, not was, that he speaketh, not spake,” as in latter-day revelation.
Dick, it works: It increases membership by preparing the youth through learning and serving. Ponder these thoughts and pass them on to your committee for consideration.
Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.