A Laissez-Faire Church
January 12, 2014
The freedom Americans have historically known will not survive in a society devoid of individual responsibility. That freedom, that precious, blood-bought freedom, was not carved out by men without self-control, who laid the blame for their folly at the feet of others, or who looked to government to solve problems they rightfully owned themselves. Nor will it be sustained by such men. It saddens and maddens me today when I see Americans pointing their fingers at others as they explain why they cannot, why they have not, or why they will not. And it burns me even more when those who have lost their taste for responsible living are coddled by government in the name of compassion and protection. And, I am not just speaking of economics. American society now makes allowances for every form of human vice imaginable—drug use, infidelity, immorality, lying, cheating, and the list could go on. Have we, as a society, no self-control? Are we so weak in mind and spirit? Do we, as Americans, really believe that we can have influence in the world when we cannot even control ourselves? How have we arrived here?
And, even more important to me, what role has the church played in the journey to this place?
To answer that, I think it important to take a glance back at where the church once was. I think it safe to say that the American church of yesteryear could identify with Moses’ statement to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 28:1-2:
“And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee…”
And also in verse 15:
“But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee”
In other words, the church understood there were consequences associated with their actions. They also understood the greatest consequence would not come here in this life, but in the life to come. They feared God. They feared God’s judgment and wrath. They also understood that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 9:10).
In today’s church, the message has shifted. Grace and love have taken the preeminent spot in the pulpit while judgment and fear have been pushed to the side. The “seeker-friendly church” emphasizes God’s desire to bless the seeker’s plans for life while overlooking their shortcomings. There are no demands for holiness. There are no warnings of impending judgment. This approach is summarized well by Rev. Fred Johns, a pastor in Irondale, AL. Commenting for an article in USA Today concerning Americans’ belief in hell and pastors’ avoidance of the topic, he said, “”It’s out of fear we’ll not appear relevant, it’s pressure from the culture to not speak anything negative. I think we’ve begun to deny hell. There’s an assumption that everybody’s going to make it to heaven somehow.”1
So if everybody’s going to make it heaven, what need have we of personal responsibility? With no hell to avoid, why should the church be preaching against sin? The answer…they don’t! In fact, it seems that the church leadership has an arrangement with the parishioners, a kind of laissez-faire policy that says, “you keep supporting us and we will stay out of your personal lives. We won’t demand holiness, we won’t inquire about your sin, we will not preach those uncomfortable messages on the coming judgment, and we will not hold you accountable for anything.”
If preachers will no longer stand in the pulpit and preach the clear message of personal responsibility for sin, why does anyone think politicians would do it? Most certainly, they will not.
Proverbs 14:34 teaches us that “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” A nation will only produce righteousness if the church preaches the negative consequences of unrighteousness, both immediate and eternal. And without a pervasive righteousness in society, there will be no personal responsibility. With no personal responsibility, freedom will wane.
We cannot allow that to happen! The call must go out to pastors across the land—preach the Word! America has lost its way. Our society is sliding into the pits of hell and without a message of accountability and personal responsibility, the church is only greasing the skids. The church must renew its resolve. We must humble ourselves before God and seek His face for revival. We must ask, as Peter did, for boldness to preach the whole truth of God’s word. We must pray for our nation, and we must hold to our belief that God’s Word will not return void but will accomplish that which pleases Him.