Returning to the Old Paths

I recently had a conversation with a friend about some of the things I have noticed in the Evangelical Church. We may not agree on everything, but I earnestly believe he loves Christ as much as I. Unfortunately, I wonder how common that is nowadays. In many respects, American Christianity is highly consumeristic, theologically anemic, and experience driven. In my honest and humble opinion, much of American Christianity is pretty “showy.”

Here’s what I mean: There has been a phenomenon in the spurt of mega-churches since the 1970s. In a previous article, I noted how this mega-church movement and it’s model follows that of Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek Community Church. Regardless of Hybels’s motives, and I believe them to be good, there has been a significant rise in mega-churches that follow his models and they have not really been that much of a blessing to the Church. Sure, mega-churches are still large and still growing, whereas many typical Evangelical churches are still small and still declining. The inclination is to believe that God is blessing the work of the mega-church pastor and not the small-town pastor, simply because of the big numbers, big budgets, and big buildings. After all, we have more people professing Christ than ever before, and how can we possibly not be blessed by God, they say?

Let’s put it this way: The greatest spiritual moments in ancient Israel were also periods of great wickedness. The godly were persecuted, i.e. Jeremiah, and the wicked prospered (Ps. 73). Each and every time there was renewal in Israel, the most famous of which was under King Josiah in 2 Kings 22 and 23, began with reforming worship according to God’s commands. Based on this, what did God favor more: large numbers of “religious” and “spiritual” people or faithful believers? Being religious, spiritual, or going to church does not mean God favors you. Many people are under this delusion. God desires faithfulness and loves those who keep his statutes (1 Jn. 5:3).

For example, what made David a man after God’s own heart? Surely, it wasn’t because he was perfect, since David committed adultery with another man’s wife, and then had that man killed. If we read Psalm 51, we see a man who’s humble and contrite in spirit, who hated his sin. Such a spirit, even against one’s imperfections, God says, “That’s the heart I love.” In other words, David was a man after God’s own heart because David was faithful, because he desired holiness, and because he says, “create in me a clean heart, O God.”

This is why I say it’s time for Millennials and Gen Zer’s, especially those in the Reformed world, to return to the old paths. I hate using myself as an example out of a fear of being perceived as arrogant, but these are some of my own heroes: R.C. Sproul, James Montgomery Boice, D. James Kennedy, Francis Schaeffer, William Childs Robinson, J. Gresham Machen, B.B. Warfield, Archibald Alexander, and so many others. What’s peculiar about those on this list? They are all dead. That’s not to say that those popular leaders who are still alive are not good or beneficial, but it is true that the voices of those who have gone before us will always be the loudest, most remembered, and most revered.

I am reminded of a story I heard talking about the character of someone like D. James Kennedy. Now, Dr. Kennedy was a typical conservative Christian, on the Christian Right; he was a pastor in the PCA, a former moderator, and founder of the famed Evangelism Explosion. His political activity aside, in an age of growing worldliness and showiness in Evangelicalism where pastors were most interested in keeping butts in seats, Dr. Kennedy would go out of his way to witness to the lady shining his shoes or the man behind the grocery counter. He witnessed to anyone and everyone he could, believing the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ was sufficient to save sinners. Where has that spirit in pastors gone? Dr. Kennedy, as was true for many of the men I mentioned, all preached the simple Gospel and lived by example. They are to be revered, not disregarded.

So, when I say we need to return to the old paths I am saying we need to do the following: 1.) Return to simple evangelical preaching; 2.) Return to simply sharing our faith with people; and, 3.) pursuing holiness. These three things sets previous generations of American Christians apart from this present because this generation has a desire for “more.” To be sure, this does not mean every Millennial or Gen Zer do not purse these things, but it does seem to be rare; for many, they simply don’t know how to love and enjoy these things. What used to satisfy previous generations came about because all they wanted was Christ. All they wanted to do was to do the right thing, to pursue holiness and purity as the ends of the Christian life. Emotional, “spiritual” experiences were nothing without Christ. What good is being entertained by a “At The Movies” sermon series if there’s no Christ, which there really never is?

It would be wonderful to see Christ made famous and a return to these old paths. To see Christ glorified, honored, and shared is the absolute desire of my heart and that of every Evangelical Church I have been apart of. The Gospel has been the passion of the lives of many pastors and faithful Christians who I have loved with my heart. I hope and pray that this will become the passion and the desire of the hearts and minds of my generation.

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