In those days before the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel to the Assyrians (722 B.C.), the prophet Hosea focused upon one of the causes of Israel’s impending destruction — ignorance was a fundamental problem (Hos. 4:6).
In a similar vein, Isaiah, speaking for the Lord, warned the southern kingdom of Judah of a coming time of punitive devastation:
“My people are gone into captivity for lack of knowledge” (Is. 5:13).
The prophetic curse was fulfilled in the Babylonian Captivity (606-536 B.C.).
Since the great truths of the Old Testament serve for our learning (Rom. 15:4), surely we can conclude that a sustained ignorance of Jehovah’s will can bring nothing but tragedy to the modern church.
Christianity: A Religion of Learning
Christianity is a religion of instruction. Where there is no solid biblical instruction, the Christian system can neither commence nor continue.
One of the basic differences between the Mosaic regime (into which one was born physically) and the church of Jesus Christ, is the fact that knowledge is prerequisite to identifying with the faith of the gospel (Jer. 31:31-34). Jesus declared that favor with God must involve instruction, reception, comprehension, and commitment (Jn. 6:45).
Anyone with a smattering of Bible knowledge, and any experience at all within our brotherhood, is aware of the fact that the church of today is facing a time of great crisis.
We have those among us who have a pathetically low regard for the concept of Bible inspiration and authority. Not a few have made serious compromises with the dogma of evolution in an effort to mesh with society.
Many of our people are very fuzzy on what constitutes a Christian. They think the church of Christ is but another denomination. A number of prominent personalities contend that there are few guidelines for regulating worship, and so the church must jazz-up its services to appeal to an entertainment-oriented culture. Basic truth has been thrown to the wind.
Why are things in such a state of chaos? One of the reasons is ignorance. There probably has not been a time in this century when Bible knowledge among the Lord’s people has sunk to such a base level. Let us be more specific.
A Crisis of Spiritual Ignorance
We are suffering a leadership crisis. Where are the godly elders who know the Bible from cover to cover? Where are the bishops who can, and will, stand and exhort in sound doctrine and convict the gainsayers (Tit. 1:9).
There are still some great elders, but far too many who are serving in this capacity have been given the job because they were successful businessmen, had wealth, or possessed other traits that were wholly unrelated to tending the flock of God.
The church has on its hands a new generation of preachers who have matriculated through some of our schools (or denominational seminaries), but who do not understand the most elementary matters about the role of the gospel preacher. They are experts in everything except the Word of God.
These new princes are theological clones who can scarcely frame a sentence that the common man can understand. They know nothing, teach nothing, and stand for nothing—but, unfortunately, numerous people love it this way.
It is no longer the case that the average person in the pew is a good Bible student. Everyone has probably heard the old story about the judge who couldn’t find a Bible in his courtroom with which to swear in a witness. So he simply called for a Christian man and had the witness place his hand upon the brother’s head.
The days are gone when God’s people were known as a “Bible-toting, Bible-quoting, Bible-living” people. Many members of the church never carry a Bible to worship, and they could not cite scriptural references on the most basic doctrinal issues.
Most of our schools are not the solid training centers they used to be. The time was when the presidents and faculty-members of our colleges were great gospel preachers and teachers who knew how to powerfully proclaim the truth and win souls. They were rich in Bible knowledge. Many of our current administrators have arrived in their positions because they are adept at fund-raising.
Too, we have become so “degree” oriented that we have allowed the secular accrediting systems to structure our teaching programs according to their ideals. Many labor under the illusion that one cannot be an effective herald of the gospel unless he has at least a Master’s degree. Is it any wonder that some of our schools have become the Trojan horse by which corruption has wormed its way into the church?
Some colleges constitute one of the greatest threats to the church today.
The Bible school literature that we have produced in recent decades is woefully anemic. It is hard to find material that is strong in doctrine. The current slick and colorful literature is filled with case-study scenarios and role-playing exercises that rely more on human wisdom than a respect for the authority of God’s Word.
Our homes are void of biblical instruction. Domestic lives are so crowded — both dad and mom working, children are involved in school, sports, etc. — that virtually all religious instruction has been left up to the Bible school, which, in many instances, represents a sorry effort. A hastily-prepared, Saturday-night lesson, with a fill-in-the-blanks format, simply will not provide the foundation for spiritual stability.
Most congregations are suffering serious attendance problems. Only a fraction of the local church attends Sunday or Wednesday evening gatherings. Aside from the Lord’s day morning assembly, only a skeleton crew will attend the services of a gospel meeting. Almost no teenagers will be in evidence. It is utterly amazing at the casual way in which many children of God treat the meetings of the church. Neglect of the assemblies for trivial circumstances — even by leaders and Bible class teachers — is a common occurrence.
A Final Word
The crisis we face is real and deadly. Unless there is a revival of interest among church leaders, unless there is some resurgence of rich teaching of the sacred Scriptures, unless there is a rekindling of passion for the cause of Christ within the church—we are in for rough times.
The church cannot flourish if she continues to drift in the same sluggish direction she has embraced in recent years. May God help us to responsibly address these problems.