From Gary North’s Critical Mass – Part 10: Is This Congregation Worth Your Effort?
Churches that are fast-growing are forever threatened by theological leveling: the problem of the lowest common denominator. New members do not know the details of the church’s tradition, nor do they care, yet authority is transferred to them: they vote. Churches do not honor the biblical principle of dual membership: communing members and voting members. Churches have adopted the democratic theology of secular humanism: one member, one vote, with no distinctions between the types of membership. Non-tithers have the same vote as tithers, just as non-taxpaying welfare recipients have the same political vote as taxpayers. The results are similar over time. In non-hierarchical churches, this is especially true. Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle Baptist congregation went Arminian within five years after his death. If the legacy of his preaching could not sustain a large congregation’s Calvinist purity, whose can?
Great preaching is insufficient, when building a church.
Protestantism’s Centrality of Preaching
Because the Protestant church was born as a reaction to the theological corruption of the Catholic Church, which did not preach Paul’s and Augustine’s gospel message of salvation by grace through faith, the Protestants have always emphasized preaching. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Protestants have always built their churches around preaching. This has always been a mistake. The church has three marks: preaching, the sacraments, and discipline. None is supposed to take precedence institutionally. None is supposed to become “first among equals.”
If a Protestant were to visit a church that had quarterly preaching, he would not return. Such a church would not survive. Yet most Protestants attend churches that serve the Lord’s Supper quarterly. A few may celebrate this sacrament monthly. John Calvin never doubted that it is supposed to be served weekly; virtually none of his disciples believe this today. They take their stand with the magistrates of Geneva, who forbade Calvin and the other pastors to serve weekly communion. The Genevan magistrates well understood that weekly communion would elevate the church’s sanctions, which are temporal and eternal, above the civil government’s exclusively temporal sanctions. They shut off this challenge to their authority by the threat of civil sanctions. It is difficult to understand why Calvin’s spiritual heirs have sided with the magistrates. Perhaps it is because they fear the added responsibility that a church with sanctions more respected than the State’s would place on them.
If today’s evangelical churches were to elevate the celebration of the Lord’s Supper to its status as judicially equal to the sermon, they would have to begin excommunicating sinners. Excommunication is the concomitant practice to communion. This would mean added judicial responsibility for pastors and elders. Today, the State threatens churches that excommunicate public adulterers, as a church in Oklahoma discovered a few years ago. The humanist State fears the church’s rival authority. The pastors and elders are almost equally fearful of their own authority. This is why Protestant pastors rarely preach on Matthew 16:19: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” It scares them.
The result is the Protestant tradition of the centrality of preaching. This has placed a heavy responsibility on homiletical skills, while reducing it for judicial skills. The Protestant Church has therefore become a “voice-only” institution. This matches the desire of the “ears-only” church member described by James: “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”
And so, we need not only solid preaching, strongly grounded on the Word of God: we also need the sacraments and church discipline.
Also, we actually need to believe Jesus when he said that what the Church looses on Earth will be loosed in Heaven, and what the Church bounds on Earth will be Bounded in Heaven.
God is the Victor on this world, as well as the next.
God rules on Earth, as well as in Heaven.
And God has decided that those who speak in His name will crush those who speak in the name of any other god… on Earth, as it is in Heaven.
It’s time to smash open the gates of the enemy.
That dying, rotting, failing, weakening, and diseased enemies of God.
This world belongs to God, and those (His adopted sons) who uphold His LawWord, as declared by His only begotten son, Jesus Christ.
Not to expand the Kingdom and disciple both the peoples and the governments – the nations of the world – some time in the far-off future.
No: it begins right here, right now… and increasingly so, inescapably, forevermore.
All shall kneel before Christ the King, whose blood covers all who are saved, who rules with blessings and curses even as I speak, even as this post is published!
Better to kneel now, while you still have breath, than to only kneel later, when your destiny has been irrevocably determined, and all hope is gone for rebellious men.