"A religious mentality characterized by timidity and lack of moral courage has given us today a flabby Christianity, intellectually impoverished, dull, repetitious and, to a great many persons, just plain boresome. This is peddled as the very faith of our fathers in direct lineal descent from Christ and the apostles. We spoon-feed this insipid pabulum to our inquiring youth and, to make it palatable, spice it up with carnal amusements filched from the unbelieving world. It is easier to entertain than to instruct, it is easier to follow degenerate public taste than to think for oneself, so too many of our evangelical leaders let their minds atrophy while they keep their fingers nimble operating religious gimmicks to bring in the curious crowds."
A. W. Tozer, "We Need Sanctified thinkers," God Tells the Man who Cares (Cumbria, UK: OM Publishing, 1994), 124.
I believe Tozer, in his essays on the contemporary Christian church, had rightly captured the essence of the "Evangelical problem." His elaborate and deliberate usage of adjectival phrases gives us an accurate, albeit prophetic, description of Christendom as it is today. And it is amazing that he was able to discern these issues decades ahead of our time.
As I am of the Reformed persuasion, I will speak of evangelicalism as it is epitomized by the Reformed churches in Singapore today. My observations and opinions might be representative of Reformed churches elsewhere in the world, but only the reader can affirm my suspicion. Nevertheless, it is thought that Evangelicalism today is characterized by "timidity and lack of moral courage." Instead of the fiery sermons exemplified by the Sermon on the Mount, some churches today resort to a euphemistic paraphrasing of offensive terminologies, coupled with the additions of somnolent chants and Victorian English which are supposed to be an intellectual rendition of Reformation sayings and discourses. Instead of preaching and bringing forth the Word of Christ in an attempt to trouble the conscience of the listeners, the sermons are designed to tickle the carnal intellect and interests of the church-goers. Such a form of Christianity does not bear any resemblance, if at all, to the religion of our Lord and the Apostles. The church has successfully stripped the content of the Bible of all its exhortations to challenge the soul, and the commandments of our Lord for a radical reformation of life fit for the Kingdom of God. Those who hear the sermons seldom feel the necessity for reform or change. This is because those sermons only serve to persuade the intellect of its hearers, but never manage to get their conscience into trouble with God. And unless the preacher is able to get the listeners to re-examine their lives on bended knees, Evangelicalism and Reformed Christianity must remain to be "flabby," "intellectually impoverished, dull, repetitious and … boresome."
This is not due to the ineffectiveness of the Word to divide asunder the soul and spirit (Heb. 4:12). But the Word coupled with moral cowardice cannot bring forth the intent of the Holy Ghost. The face of many preachers light up whenever there are discussions on the various elements of proper homiletics. But here is an element that requires diligent adherence: the Word must be preached faithfully, courageously, and as it is. There is not so much as the dearth of the Word, but rather the cowardly, lily-livered preaching of the Word in Reformed churches today that is eating away the biblical foundations of the Reformation. Instead of entreating and challenging the pew-warmers within our churches to live holy lives according to the high standards of the Bible (and mind you, the standards of the Bible are high), they are treated to the chaff, wood and stubble of community activities, fellowship fun, and coffee breaks. And all of these are done in the name of love, peace and togetherness. There is little wonder that believers today know so little of the cross-carrying, self-sacrificial, and world-denying lives of the first-century Christians.
We cannot and must not replace the homiletical challenges to holy living with the fun, games, and joy of community activities. For without the testimony of the saints, the disciplinary oversight of the church, and the purity of Christ in our lives, the church will inevitably denigrate herself to the level of a community centre or a public amusement park. If the church fails to challenge her members - who would in turn challenge the worldly zeitgeist - how can we ever call ourselves the salt and light in this world? Unless the church is able to shout to the world, "We are holy as God is holy", what differences then lie between us and them? Are we so conformed to the world such that we are indistinguishable from the world?
Tozer summarized the issues succinctly - "It is easier to entertain than to instruct, it is easier to follow degenerate public taste than to think for oneself." Furthermore, it is easier to be the peace-maker, than to be the faithful preacher; it is easier to keep ourselves looking busy, rather than to be holy; it is easier to be the coward, than to be the martyr; it is far easier to be Pilate, than to be John the Baptist, to be Balaam, rather than to be Micaiah. And while we keep ourselves busy keeping the people together so that the church will look larger and warmer, the souls are starved for spiritual food and true communion with the living God. In the meantime, the financial planning and church activities must go on. But how many of us are able to perceive the spiritual blight that is devouring the church like a canker?
One such man is Aidan W. Tozer.