Trends in These Terrifying Times

There are events in this world trans­piring before our very eyes that are equally as terrifying as atomic blasts. There are moral and spiritual catas­trophes confronting us that are potentially as devastating as a nuclear detonation, for they are eternal in their consequences.

H.W.L. is an associate editor of the Ministry.

"These terrifying times" do not arise from our thinking in an atomic context. There are events in this world trans­piring before our very eyes that are equally as terrifying as atomic blasts. There are moral and spiritual catas­trophes confronting us that are potentially as devastating as a nuclear detonation, for they are eternal in their consequences.

The church in this generation, strange as it may sound at this late date, is confronted by an evangelistic program that challenges it to the utmost, and dares the Christian to attempt the greatest things ever under­taken before God against overwhelming odds. For example, in some parts of the world the Christian church has long since lost the race against the population explo­sion. Since figures are not available for lands like China, Indonesia, Africa, we must content ourselves with statistics that relate to North America, where these lines are being written. It is no longer fantastic to imagine a time in the not-far-distant fu­ture when there may be as many as a bil­lion people in these United States where now the present population is already above the 185-million mark. Statisticians envision 204-million people by 1970, and 350-mil­lion by the year 2000.

These figures do not confront us simply with the problem of elbow room. They face us squarely with moral and spiritual issues in a land where there are insufficient churches, and where a very large number of children and youth receive no religious education either in home or school.

No one generation has yet been fully evangelized, and when one considers the tremendous population growth, which is outstripping the advances of the church, the picture is not hopeful. It is even less hopeful in great lands elsewhere in the world. What the young people of today are thinking—and at least 50 per cent of the population in the United States is below thirty years of age—determines the condi­tion of the world spiritually and morally for years to come.

There are some things so frightening that we would prefer to restrain mention of them were it not for the fact that we must face realities. For example, while thinking of the population explosion we might with humility remember that crime is said to be increasing in the United States four times faster than the population rate. In the past decade there has been well on toward a 100 per cent crime increase. It is reliably reported that 750,000 young people were hailed before the courts in the United States during 1959. Preachers, who constitute the main body of our readers, do not need us to add marital infidelity, soaring divorce rates, multiplied pregnancies among un­married girls in our high schools, the in­creasing number of abortions, syndicated crime, organized prostitution, et cetera, in order to round out a picture that is about as black as it could be.

The Yearbook of American Churches for the current year indicates that there are some 114 million church members in the United States, which may sound encour­aging to the man whose statistical percep­tions are overly developed, but not to the man who would ask whether all these church members are really men, women, and young people utterly dedicated to the cause of Christ. We mention this because a contemporary recently made the state­ment that "the church member, moral, baptized, a religionist, is usually one of the most difficult men on earth to win to Christ."'

There is perhaps no solution for the dead-member problem, except as we preachers are on fire for the living God and constantly bringing the dead to life. Are we preaching in that kind of way? I heard a man preach recently, and from the mo­ment he began until the moment he ended he stood fixed to the two spots on which the soles of his feet rested; his hands never left the paper from which he was reading; his facial expression never changed; and when it was all over, the crowd filed out of the big city church like a slowly moving sea of icebergs! I stand among the least critical men when it comes to judgment of my fellow preachers, but we have to admit in general terms that dead preachers de­liver dead sermons that make dead Chris­tians!

How can a man's soul be on fire with the most startling, the most inspiring, the most epochal things of time and eternity with­out communicating by every means at his disposal to his people the fire that is in his own bones? We mix our metaphors to be expressive!

We are disturbed by other trends in the religious picture in the world today. Sup­pose a church is so animated by the Spirit of the living God that its numbers multi­ply, and the normal process of growth be­gets the idea of spawning and building another church—which, after all, is the way the Christian church has grown through the ages. It may surprise our read­ers to know that in days to come it may not be as easy in North America to build a new church as it has been, even when we have all the necessary funds in hand. There is growing up, under the impetus of the desire to unite for Christ, a number of local agreements that are called comities. The idea is similar to that which pertains in mission lands, of keeping to distinctly demarcated territories so as not to overlap the work of any other society.

We were surprised to read the following statement by Doctor C. E. Zunkel of the Church of the Brethren, a man associated with the National Council of Churches: "I think I am correct in this that in Seattle the comity arrangement has been worked out so carefully and completely that no church could get an allocation of land for building without first having a comity al­location by the Seattle council; neither could any church secure a building per­mit, or buy lumber from a lumberyard for church building purposes without hav­ing had clearance from the Seattle Council of Churches. This made it possible to keep out the groups who tend to ignore matters of Comity and are unwilling to work cooperatively in church extension. In Denver, as I understand the situation, Doc­tor Harvey Hollis, the executive secretary, has now established the reputation of the Council in such a way that realtors will not sell property for church locations without first of all having clearance from the Den­ver Council of Churches. I am not sure that all realtors cooperate 100% in this, but it is my understanding that in the main the realtors are following this pattern and it is a very fortunate situation. There is no compulsion in it, except the good will and the hearty cooperation which the real-tors are expressing because of their con­fidence in the Denver Council and Mr. Hollis."'

If these men of the National Council cannot see that such an arrangement is capable of the most un-Christian repres­sion, then their enthusiasm for organiza­tion must certainly be blinding.

Luther L. Grub, the author of the article from which the above quotation is taken, might well exclaim from the depths of his soul: "We should be deeply shaken by the realities of this picture. Unless evangelicals do much, much more than they have been doing, the cause for Christ in America could be lost in a decade. Evangelicals must present a united front against the forces which oppose the extension of the gospel. If we keep pace with our population growth, we need 100,000 more new churches by 1975."

We would not impugn the motives of the leaders of the National Council of Churches, and we would readily admit that each of the above statements, though given in a reputable religious journal, is subject to verification. But Adventists and others who are interested in Bible proph­ecy will by these comments recall the pic­ture presented in Revelation 13, in which the whole world is deceived into a unity of oppression which requires "that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (verse 17). The prohibition against the purchase of a city lot and the obtaining of a permit to erect a building may not at present look like the sort of thing we read about in Revelation 13, but human history is a long story of various kinds of comities, oppressions, and persecutions. Some of these things begin innocently, but eventuate in repression and tyranny. The student of the Word is there­fore justified in watching some of the ter­rifying trends of these times.

We must pray, work, and hope that zeal for a united church will not produce a monolithic organization that might get out of hand in the control of overzealous forces. It could then quite well eclipse anything yet known in the field of religions intolerance.                                    

H. W. L.

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H.W.L. is an associate editor of the Ministry.

July 1962

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