Dan Popp
Dear Pastor
An open letter to Evangelical ministers
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By Dan Popp
June 1, 2009

Dear Pastor,

Over the years I've been privileged to work with a fair number of Christian ministers, of all stripes. This personal experience has given me great respect for you and for your calling. This letter isn't meant as criticism Lord knows you are criticized enough. But I do have some concerns about the condition of the Evangelical church in the United States, and our readiness for these troubling days. Though I speak only for myself, I have confidence that you'll listen.

I'd like to talk to you about our corporate relationship to the Bible, to Christian doctrine, and to the government.

"Give attention to the public reading of scripture."

My study of the Ante Nicene Fathers has planted the impression that, compared to our worship services today, early Christian meetings focused much more on the Scriptures. Justin Martyr wrote in his First Apology (around AD 150),

    And on the day called Sunday all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we rise together and pray....

Yes, believers have their own copies of the Bible now complete ones, at that. But I've visited a number of "Bible-believing" churches where only a verse or two of the Word of God is quoted on Sunday. More than once I have heard a pastor say, "I encourage you to read the whole chapter this week." We had time for the exposition, but not enough time for the Word being exposited. Can we expect the Bible to be central in the lives of believers through the week if it is not central in church every Sunday?

We have new battles to fight. We need to be skilled in the use of the "sword of the Spirit." The Word of Christ should dwell in us richly. Can our spiritual leaders do more to help us with that?

"Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me."

In some churches it almost seems that "doctrine" is a four-letter word. The people in the pews are confused. Each is forming his own fuzzy theology based on the sandy foundation of feel-good authors, the media and pop culture with maybe a few snippets of Scripture thrown in to give the whole thing an air of authenticity. According to a recent Barna poll, half of those identifying themselves as "born again" believe they can work their way to heaven.

Brethren, these things ought not to be. The truth the "standard of sound words" is not something reserved for advanced seminary students. The illiterate peasant who could sing a Charles Wesley hymn had a better grasp of Christian doctrine than some of our contemporaries.

Maybe you are as horrified as I am that a lot of so-called Christians seem to be, in actual fact, Universalists. This is a blasphemous affront to Christ. If "any way" to heaven is good enough, then Jesus' death was unnecessary. Christianity for all its tolerance of other faiths, their adherents and practices has always preached unequivocally that "There is salvation is no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12

Is there really such a thing as a saved person who doesn't believe in a hell to be saved from? Why would we baptize anyone who is unwilling or unable to defend the doctrines of the trinity, the virgin birth of Christ, and the final judgment? I've known "Christians" who consider the Genesis account of creation to be a mere myth. And even "Christians" who consider such fundamental truths of the faith to be quibbles over ecclesiastical trivia. Of course you can't undo all this damage yourself; but are you and your staff doing what you can?

God and Government

I understand that many pastors disdain politics. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world." We certainly don't want to give the impression that God is a Republican, or that someone who votes against school vouchers is going to hell.

But...

Believers have always spoken against the wrongs done by government. From John the Baptist's rebuke of Herod, through the American Abolitionists, to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's stand against Nazi oppression, we are spiritually descended from a long line of men and women who "spoke truth to power."

Many of you, indeed, are outspoken against the holocaust of abortion even though abortion could be categorized as a "political" issue. Yet as we in America enter a post-Christian age, with a government untethered to either moral absolutes or to the Constitution, it seems to me that the voices of Evangelical pastors are too quiet.

Isn't robbery evil? Isn't socialism robbery by government?

What about envy? I can't remember ever hearing a sermon against the sin of covetousness. And yet it eats our nation like a cancer. Envy allows politicians to pit Americans against each other and to confiscate private property in the name of a godless "greater good."

Do your sheep know Romans 13 and the proper role of government? Do they understand what obedience to earthly authority means and where it ends?

The desire to remain above worldly politics may be noble, but it's probably futile. C.S. Lewis wrote,

    The modern State exists not to protect our rights but to do us good or make us good anyway, to do something to us or to make us something. Hence the new term "leaders" for those who were once "rulers." We are less their subjects than their wards, pupils, or domestic animals. There is nothing left of which we can say to them, "Mind your own business." Our whole lives are their business.

You see the conflict. The phrase, "our whole lives" defines the area supposedly ruled by Christ. Our whole lives are the property of God, not of the government. If you preach at all on anything touching any part of "our whole lives," you are obeying Christ and trespassing on Government property.

Now the ominous new threat of punishment for "hate crimes" has been added to the threat of IRS penalties to keep pastors toeing the line of the state religion.

It will not end there. Why would it?

Thank you for reading and considering these things. I join many others in praying for you. May God bless and uphold you in the challenges ahead.

(All scriptures NASB)

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© Dan Popp

 

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