My main goal in writing this letter is to highlight what I consider to be the central problem that I have observed and experienced in the North American Church, which is the lack of the faithful preaching of the Word of God. Article 29 of The Belgic Confession of Faith identifies this as the first mark of a true church. The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q & A 89) clearly states, "The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation" (emphasis mine). The pure and unadulterated gospel of God's grace is a nonnegotiable priority for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sadly, something other than the pure gospel of God's salvation for sinners has taken center stage in the pulpits of North America to the extent that some churches have become what the Westminster Confession of Faith rightly describes as "the synagogues of Satan" (WCF 25.5). In many church circles, people do not want to hear about their fallen state because of sin and their need for faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, leading to repentance unto salvation. These important truths are not always discussed, explained, or applied in the pulpits of America.
I have been to a number of churches where from the moment you walk in, you have no idea what's going on. You go there expecting to worship and meet with the Living God, but you come out dejected and wondering if it was all worth it—sometimes feeling as if you had just participated in some evil practice (like pagan worship). The moment the preacher opens his mouth, I have often caught myself reaching for a "seatbelt," not knowing where he was going to take me—many times not preaching from a text of Scripture but building the "sermon" around a movie clip, a newspaper article, or a story of his own making. It's like riding on the dirty and bumpy roads in Malawi in a jeep that has neither shocks nor brakes. It's very frightening and uncomfortable to say the least—and it's pretty sickening. What's worse though is hearing people's remarks after hearing such a "sermon," such as "Wasn't that a great sermon?" and how "so and so" is a great preacher. The people sitting in the pews are just gobbling up garbage and junk (which is pollution for the soul) as their level of biblical knowledge and doctrine is so low—almost nonexistent for many of them. They can teach their kids to sing songs such as "Jesus Loves Me This I Know," but they have no clue what that really means. I have been brought to tears, mourning for the lost opportunity for so many who need to hear "Thus saith the Lord"—a prophetic word from the mouth of God through the preacher to sinners who are at odds with him because of their sin.
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Hat tip to Steve Wood at Treading Grain.