Someone asked me the other day why preachers don’t preach on sin anymore.
I guess the short answer is because they don’t want to lose their customers.
Most Christians are easily offended these days. Sure, they understand, for instance, that adultery is a sin. But if you point out that, according to Jesus, the sole grounds for divorce is fornication, making most second and third (and fourth, etc.) marriages illegitimate and therefore adulterous, they get offended. They would rather remain in their adulterous union (that is, live in sin) than follow Jesus’ teaching.
I hope that the bar is higher for born-again believers. I hope that when someone points out that we’re committing a sin according to Jesus’ teaching, we rush to repent. I hope we don’t get offended or make excuses. I hope we don’t look for sin loopholes or alternate interpretations, or just look the other way. Jesus was always crystal clear in his teachings. You either accept what he taught and apply it to your life, or you don’t. The choice is always yours, but obviously to accept what Jesus taught and apply it to your life is the right way forward. There’s no wriggle-room for being offended when it comes to Jesus’ teachings, not for born-again believers. We’re supposed to be feeding the sheep. We’re supposed to be setting the example.
Last Sunday, I went to a church service for the first time in 12 years. I only went because God suggested I go. Otherwise, I would not have gone. I wasn’t sure initially what God wanted me to see or hear, but it was a dismal display that I beheld. If I were not a born-again believer, if I were just someone who’d wandered in off the street, wondering what Christianity was all about, I would have thought I was at a funeral and wandered back out.
The building was dank and smelled of mould, the way old buildings devoid of sunlight and fresh air tend to smell. It was also dark as twilight. Not surprisingly, there weren’t many people there (maybe a couple dozen). There were no Bibles or hymnals in the pews; I figured people must have been stealing them and the church decided not to put them out anymore, but that left the pews empty of scripture. I guess I should have brought my own Bible with me.
Another church staple strangely absent was singing. At the altar, a small orchestra played tunes that you could hum along to in your head, if you were so inclined, but you could not sing along, as there were no words. The songs were wordless, played by a masked violinist, a masked cellist, and a masked clarinetist. In fact, everyone there was masked except me. I guess the purpose of having the instrumentalists playing wordless songs was to prevent people from singing, which, I guess, is still verboten in some churches, lest the pestilence spread via joyful expression.
I confess that I did not stay beyond 20 minutes. I could not stay. Even those 20 minutes were painful. I kept thinking about Ezekiel’s vision of spiritual adultery (Ezekiel 8) and God’s call to Haggai to rebuild the temple. And I thought about an odd comment I’d heard years ago, that what the thousands of decrepit and run-down Victorian wooden row houses in Halifax needed was a good fire. The commenter was not wrong. Some degrees of decay, whether physical or spiritual, cannot be redeemed; in such cases, destruction is a mercy.
The pastor spoke a form of English that I did not understand. I taught English as a second language for years, so I’m well-versed at deciphering mangled English, but the English spoken by that pastor was beyond even my professional abilities to comprehend. To make matters worse, he mumbled and he spent at least ten minutes offering some kind of a tribute to the tribes that hundreds of years ago used to roam in the same general vicinity as where the church building now stood. The tribute included words in the tribal language, which the pastor constantly stumbled over. To be honest, it was difficult for me to tell when he was mumbling English and when he was mumbling the tribal language; it was all equally incomprehensible.
After 20 minutes of straining to decipher the gibberish, I’d had enough.
As I thankfully slipped out of the cold dank building and onto the warm sunny sidewalk, I asked God why he wanted me to go to the service. He said simply so that I could see it. I needed to see it for myself.
I wasn’t going to write about this, but God suggested that I should. I don’t know what your experience is with church services these days, whether my experience was an outlier or par for the course. I hope God doesn’t send me to another service any time soon, but I’ll go if he sends me.
I think pastors don’t preach about sin anymore not only because people don’t want to hear it, but the pastors are incapable of doing it. When you stand before a congregation as a representative of Jesus, preaching God’s Word, you had better be doing so in the power of God’s Spirit; otherwise, get off the stage.
I said to God, just before I left the building, “There’s no God here”. The words spilled out of me as a visceral response to what I’d just seen. But God said to me: “Yes there is; you’re here.” He’d meant that I’d brought his Spirit with me into the building.
Then I took his Spirit back out.
God, among other things, is a purifying fire. There is nothing that will save what has become of the mainstream worldly church. It would be a mercy for it to be destroyed by a good fire. What I witnessed on Sunday is not what Jesus came to establish; it is not what he built. The spiritual temple of his body is alive and well and living through genuine born-again believers. This I know for a fact, because I am such a one. I am a witness to the Spirit in me, which is the same Spirit that was in Jesus.
As long as there is even one genuine born-again believer on Earth, the church that Jesus built will live on. When the last believer leaves, hell will reign.
Hell is now waiting in the wings: It wears a mask and plays Wordless tunes, while mumbling another gospel no-one understands.