The church of the Puritans was a dynamic force in society. Men and the rulers of men looked to the church of our forefathers for guidance in the conduct of public affairs, indeed in every arena of life.
In those days the Kingdom of God was a culture-wide phenomenon known as Christendom. The Puritans held that Church and state were independent institutions, but both were subject to God. The church taught the magistrate the requirements of God’s holy law, but did not dominate.
But something happened in the Great Awakening of the 1740’s that changed all of that. Unlike the Puritans the itinerant preachers typically set up their pulpit outside town in the open countryside, symbolically declaring that the Kingdom was beyond the concerns of organized society. Little effort was made to team up with the established church in the community.
Moreover, the message was limited to a personal call for individual conversion with no challenge to the convert’s devotion to the idols in the culture. Thus, it was possible for a person to have a personal salvation experience without embracing the implications of Christ’s kingly reign in the wider social context. People could be born into the kingdom without growing up to become productive citizens within the kingdom (Christendom) like the Puritans.
Instead of using the law to convict the sinner of his wretched standing before God, more often than not the message was along the lines of “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” A psychology of persuasion was employed, which drowned out the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit in the soul.
These problems were especially acute in the Second Great Awakening just after the turn of the Century. Unfortunately, they have persisted to the present day and have been perfected in the methods of the great crusade evangelists.
MYTH: A renewed crusade in personal evangelism and proclamation of the “simple” gospel is the only thing that will save America at this desperate hour.
That is the message being promoted online by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) at the present time. Here is the message in its entirety:
“IN [JESUS’S] NAME THE NATIONS
WILL PUT THEIR HOPE” (Mt 12:21NIV)
If you live in the typical American community–with 100 average neighbors–here’s the reality: 7 of your neighbors struggle with depression, even contemplating suicide; 7 abuse or are addicted to drugs or alcohol; 8 are struggling with unemployment; and 60 don’t profess to know Jesus Christ as their Savior.
The picture is bleak, but there is hope. Jesus Christ can transform lives that are burdened with fear, insecurity, uncertainty, and pain and offer joy and peace, now and for all eternity. By signing this declaration, you stand with Billy Graham in proclaiming that our nation needs this Good News.
In November 2013, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and Christians across the U.S. and Canada will host My Hope with Billy Graham, a massive media and friendship outreach, to proclaim the Gospel. Submit the form on the right, and we’ll send you updates on this outreach and other ways we are sharing the lifesaving message of Jesus Christ. I will join you in declaring, “I have hope for America because of Jesus Christ.”
We’ve been here before. In the 1970s a nationwide “I found It!” crusade was launched with similar goals. Results were anemic. With all due respect, we would point out that the above is an appeal to personal peace and prosperity. As such, it is a man-centered appeal. It says nothing of the broken law, the offended Deity, the neglect of Biblical justice that has provoked the judgment of God on America. These themes were characteristic of the Puritans and the prophets (Micah 3:1,5,9,11).
The verse Dr. Graham quotes is addressed to the nations, but his appeal is the same exclusively personal, pietistic approach that we have heard for years. It completely neglects the Kingship of Christ over the nation and the broader realm of Christendom. Moreover it does not address the sins of the nation or its leaders, as did the Puritans. Our MythBusters’ investigation found that the Bible presents a more comprehensive message in both Old and New Testaments.
The Old Testament Gospel Was Not Strictly Personal
The preaching of the Old Testament prophets was not strictly personal. Men of God throughout the Bible addressed their message to the sins of the nation and its leaders, not just the individual. For example, the Prophet Micah called the rulers in Israel to repentance with these words, “Hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice? You who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin from off my people….” (Mic. 3:1,2).
The Melchizedekan ministry of Christ is pictured in both Old and New Testaments as priestly and kingly. In Genesis 14:18 we are told that Melchizedek was both “priest of God Most High” and “king of Salem.” In Hebrews 7:2 we learn that the name Melchizedek translated means both “king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace.”
Christ is both Priest and King. Thus, any presentation of the gospel that fails to set forth the cultural peace flowing from the kingly ministry of Christ is a truncated gospel. Unlike the so-called “social gospel,” the work of Christ on the cross is central to the comprehensive gospel preached by the Puritans.
The New Testament Gospel Is Not Strictly Personal
Mary’s magnificat announcing the birth of the Messiah in the New Testament was not strictly personal. Mary began with a declaration of the “good news” that “His mercy is upon generation after generation.” (Lk 1:50), but the thrust of her message was the social-political impact of the kingly reign of her Son. Already with His advent, He has “scattered the proud,” “brought down rulers,” and “sent away the rich empty-handed.”
A gospel message that does not include the kingly ministry of Christ over men and nations is incomplete. A strictly personal gospel message is a truncated gospel message. A truncated gospel message is an inaccurate gospel message. An inaccurate gospel message is but one variety of “another gospel” that Paul denounced in Galatians. Men will respond to a comprehensive gospel, whereas crusade evangelism has contributed to the feminization of the church.
Martin Luther, a forerunner of the Puritans, left us these words, “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle field besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”
Case Closed: The ineffectiveness of crusade evangelism is remarkable, although not generally known. Studies have shown that only a tiny percentage continue on with the Lord (cf. Ray Comfort). Dr. Graham has no qualms about sending those who do respond back into the liberal churches from whence they come to be devoured by spiritual wolves among the leadership. MythBuster Rating: For this reason the BGEA is assigned the MythBusters’ red flag warning.
More of the same is not what America needs at this critical hour of national judgment. Needed is a comprehensive gospel like that of the Puritans that sets forth the claims of Christ in all of life and culture, not just the life of the individual soul.
The crusade evangelism model focused exclusively on the individual cannot be found in Scripture. It is a huge diversion of time and resources. Our resources would be better expended on the “Adopt A Politician” program described in the “Apolitical Pastor” series elsewhere on this BLOG.
If every evangelical pastor were to adopt one politician in their town or city and share the whole counsel of God, the battle would be won. That is the Biblical model pioneered by John the Baptist in the New Testament.