Midway’s apparent shrinking attendance may be indicative of a larger problem…
A recent research report by George Barna has captured the attention of the evangelical world. His study from the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University is alarming with regard to its findings about American “Christians” and their understanding of the Bible. It finds that while 176 million Americans claim a Christian identify (which is 69% of the country), only 6% of adults (which is 9% of those identifying as Christians) hold a Biblical Worldview. These findings paint a sad picture of the church in America and demonstrate that an alarming number of those calling themselves “Christians” do not identify with the truths of the Bible or believe them to be authoritative.
Josh Shepherd of the The Roys Report, a Christian media outlet focused on restoring and reforming the Christian Church in America, commented on the significance of the report stating “Resonant with his decades of research work, George Barna’s latest survey seeks to arouse urgency among evangelical parents and pastors regarding the necessity of teaching sound doctrine to the next generation.”
The Pulpit Abused
It is the exhortation of Titus 1 that pastors and elders in the church “hold firm to the trustworthy Word as taught” so that they may be able to “give instruction in sound doctrine.” They must not preach in a self interested way or for “shameful gain”. If Barna’s research report demonstrates anything, it is that America’s churches have abandoned sound doctrine and the people of God and church attendees therefore are starved for the truth.
The Midway Guardian has featured a number of authors who have exposed various concerning statements from Midway’s pulpit in recent times. Whether the preaching is Eisegesis (making the text say what you want it to) or hypocrisy, there are more than a few instances where the Senior Pastor has used the pulpit to indirectly share his views on ongoing complaints and disciplinary actions at the church.
Whether it is the theme of problem solving in the church (which concluded with “trust your elders”), or the theme of church government (which concluded with “trust your elders”), or the detailed exposition on how leaders in the church are to be selected (which also concluded with “trust your elders”), it is clear that the personal views of the Senior Pastor are evident in the preaching and are seemingly designed to rally support or justify actions taken in secret. Hearers are not supposed to be concerned with actions taken in secret, even if they result in the excommunication of long time friends and mentors, because they are told it is proper to simply “trust your elders”.
So pervasive is this mindset that the Session has mandated blind conformity of thought through it’s dangerous Tally Resolution which states that church officers must subordinate their perspective to that of the majority or resign, and Associate Pastor David Barry has repeatedly claimed from the pulpit that sacrificing one’s viewpoints to those of the elders is how one expresses love for others. Senior Pastor David Hall has suggested that when “treated unfairly” one should never advocate for their “rights” lest they miss an opportunity to share the Gospel, but rather should simply submit to the situation. The apparent theme is to advocate the viewpoint of the majority of the leadership at the church at all costs and to discourage any form of expression contrary to their positions.
All Presbyterians and inheritors of the Reformed tradition should be most thankful that Martin Luther and the other reformers did not share this perspective of passivity in the face of error.
Is a loss of focus on Jesus Christ and his Gospel harming the effectiveness of Midway Presbyterian Church’s pulpit? Could this be the reason for the shrinking attendance at worship as the revolving door that is Midway continues to swing moving along families that are seeking to be fed?
The Pulpit Restored
Those charged with teaching and preaching the Word according to the exhortation of Titus 1 are to be focused on sound doctrine and not self-interested messaging. When preaching becomes about justifying the actions of the leadership in the church, or advocating for the personal viewpoints of the man preaching, then the pulpit is actively being abused.
Charles Spurgeon stated in a sermon in 1876 that “The motto of all true servants of God must be, ‘We preach Christ; and him crucified.’ A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.”
These are stern and hard words from the man dubbed the “Prince of Preachers.” Whether the men in the pulpit of Midway Presbyterian Church recognize it or not, there is a pattern of self-interested topics that have crept into the pulpit, and eisegesis is on display. As this theme increases, an emphasis on Jesus Christ decreases – supplanted by reminders of the authority of men over other men. In this case, the Session of the church.
All Christians should pray for the pulpit at Midway Presbyterian Church, pulpits across the PCA, and pulpits across the world. George Barna’s research should be a wake up call. How much more important is this wake up call for those who belong to Reformed creedal denominations, like the PCA, that have remained faithful to the Word of God, to preach sound doctrine! The culture is sick and dying. The people area starved for truth. The mission fields are ready for harvest.
There is simply no time to be wasted in the pulpit with any agendas, topics, or personalities that distract from Jesus Christ and the Gospel. The stakes are eternal.
“For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 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 10:13-14