In the physical realm when it becomes obvious that a human body is diseased, an immediate diagnosis is made in order to determine, if possible, what the disease is and what caused it. It seems logical to me that the same procedure would be in order in the spiritual realm.
It is quite obvious, even to the casual observer, that there is a diseased condition in the body of Christ today. The church in many places is so anemic and in such a weakened condition that it is unable to withstand any germ of worldliness or materialism. In fact, the lifeless attitude of indifference toward error and the insane desire to grow big and do big things indicate to me a cancerous condition that will eat away the spiritual life of the body of Christ. In many congregations this has already happened. We see the emphasis placed on the MATERIAL rather than the SPIRITUAL. This manifests itself in various forms, such as thousands of dollars spent for facilities to FEED the physical man. THIS MONEY COMES FROM THE TREASURY OF THE CHURCH. Now there is a current fad among churches of Christ (?) to either build or buy "social halls" and "recreation buildings." Much planning is involved and a great deal of money is being spent on the YOUNG PEOPLE. "Youth Camps," "Bible Camps," etc., etc. are the order of the day. People are "lured" in by the "friendliness" and social and recreational programs of the congregations instead of being convicted by hearing the plain gospel of Christ proclaimed. Just about the ONLY conviction one has to have today in order to get into most churches of Christ is that he is not "anti" anything. Most preachers are such "jolly good fellows" and their preaching is such a vague, watered-down version of gospel preaching that their converts have very little conviction and no concept of the truth of the gospel.
There appeared in the "Oakland Tribune," Sunday, September 21, 1958 an article which states the case very well. I should like to quote the article.
"New 'Religion' Worries Clergy"
By Louis Cassels United Press International
"Religion is enjoying unprecedented popularity in America. But what kind of religion ?"
"That question haunts many thoughtful clergymen. They would like to rejoice in the statistics that show church membership, Sunday School enrollment and Bible sales at an all time high. But they keep wondering how much is faith, and how much is fad." (Emp. mine, L. M.)
"This week a distinguished Protestant journal, the Christian Century, brought the question into the open — and offered an answer that will shock a lot of churchmen."
"What America is experiencing, the Century said, is not so much a 'revival' of traditional religions as the emergence of a new religion."
"This new 'national faith' is a v a g u e, watered-down version of Protestant Christianity. It minimizes the importance of particular religious beliefs, but places great sentimental value on 'religion-in-general.' Its creed is summed up in the popular cliche: 'The only thing that matters is that you have faith in God.'
"The Century went on to say that 'faith in God,' as defined by popular religion today, is essentially a 'chummy relationship' with a deity, who is thought of as a sort of indulgent grandfather in Heaven."
" 'Religion-in-general's God is a jolly good fellow,' the Century observed. HE DOES NOT MAKE DEMANDS ON MEN, OR EXPECT THEM TO SERVE HIM, BUT STANDS READY TO ASSIST THEM IN CARRYING OUT THEIR OWN PROJECTS AND ACHIEVING THEIR SELF-CENTERED GOALS." (Emp. mine, L.M.)
"This concept of God and his relation to man may be 'comforting,' but it is certainly not Christian, the Century said."
The above article reveals that the church of Christ is not the only religious body having trouble with selfish, materialistic thinking. In fact, the denominational world was having trouble with this thing BEFORE the church was afflicted.
The denominations are just "a little ahead" of churches of Christ in this new "national religion," which looks upon God as a "jolly good fellow" who "does not make demands of men, or expect them to serve him, BUT STANDS READY TO ASSIST THEM IN CARRYING OUT THEIR OWN PROJECTS AND ACHIEVING THEIR SELF-CENTERED GOALS." Some churches of Christ have already "caught-up" with the denominations, while other churches of Christ are "ON THE MARCH" and given a little more time will also arrive.
It is difficult to find anything practiced in the denominational world that is not being practiced in some churches of Christ. There are very few churches today that would allow a debate in their buildings. They will not tolerate plain positive preaching. No one is allowed to question their practices without being branded as an "anti" or "a trouble-maker" and boycotted and quarantined. This is a deadly malady that will kill the church in any place unless it is correctly diagnosed and properly treated.
It seems that every time there has been a major departure in the church of Christ, there have been difficulties beforehand in the denominational world. Many became disgusted with the error of denominationalism and turned to the truth. Therefore, the church has enjoyed a phenomenal growth just prior to the departure. A close look at history will prove this to be true. The present situation is no exception. For ten years before the departure this time, the church grew by leaps and bounds numerically. As a result there was a "mushrooming" with which we were not prepared to deal. Many people came into the church with their materialistic views intact. Add to this the WEAK, PUNY, and SICKLY condition of many elders and preachers and you begin to see why we have such a death rate of churches today. I have pointed all this out in order that the reader may be assured that the church is SICK and dying in many places, and that a diagnosis is in order so that a proper treatment may be applied. I realize that others have attempted a similar work and probably did a much better job than I can do. However, in the physical realm, the diagnosis of a NUMBER of men means more than the diagnosis of just one man. My only reason for attempting this work is the hope that I might point out some little thing that others may have overlooked, or that I may in some small way contribute to the Cause of Christ by arousing someone to a realization of what the church faces.
If we can determine what caused the condition to erupt in the church, we will be in a position to apply treatment. Sometimes diagnosing a case and applying treatment is most painful. The same thing is true in the spiritual sense, because we cannot divorce the church and error from the practice of individuals. I mean by this that one cannot deal with an error without treading on the toes of the individuals practicing that particular error. Hence, as we proceed to determine what brought on the anemic condition of the church, we shall be forced to deal with the attitudes and thinking of some individual members of the church. Please be assured that I have no animosity or ill will toward anyone. But I cannot allow friendship and love for brethren to sway me from truth.