…even if we acknowledge that we remain sinners and can find ourselves in a dangerous spiritual state, do we know what such a state really looks like? I’m not so sure. Some liken it to big public failure, and this leaves them thinking they are safe when in fact they may be in a very bad way. In the classic Vital Godliness, William Plumer said, “Many are kept from owning their backslidings, because they are mercifully restrained from open sins. Had they publicly fallen into overt iniquity, they would blush, and be ashamed; they would bewail their wickedness before God and men. But as yet all is secret. They are merely backsliders in heart.”
Somebody once said: “The Gospel came to the Greeks, and the Greeks turned it into a philosophy. The Gospel came to the Romans, and the Romans turned it into a system. The Gospel came to the Europeans, and the Europeans turned it into a culture. The Gospel came to America, and the Americans turned it into a business.” And business is booming. Millions of churchgoers file in to buildings each week, line up in rows like shelves at Wal-Mart and watch the stage. They come for one purpose: to see a show and hear a pastor.
This, by uncritical standards, is success. But while this phenomenon increases, I believe it can be damaging to the spiritual vitality of the American church.
I’ve had to think through this question in recent days. First I’ve had to think of it because I believe that there are many people within our churches that have said a prayer, given a few correct answers, and then took a bath at church. Upon this bath they are now told that they members of the church. Within the Southern Baptist community that means something. It means that we as a church are standing behind your profession and as it were saying to the Lord, “We believe this person is a disciple of Jesus”.