Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 24, 1961

Another Disturbing Trend

Eldred Stevens, Fort Worth, Texas

Because of personally falling so far short of the ideal as a preacher, this writer is somewhat reluctant to undertake this particular critique. However, the need for these remarks is so great that such reluctance must be pushed aside. Much is being said in present times concerning dangerous trends that are developing in the church. There is the trend toward institutionalism, the trend toward worldliness, the trend toward modernism, the trend toward ecclesiastical regimentation, the trend toward breakdown of congregational independence, the trend toward anti-ism and legalism, etc.

One of the most disturbing of all trends today is found in the fact that so many of our, present generation of preachers do not preach sermons that ring with the old Jerusalem gospel. In their desire to be "original," and in their determination not to "parrot" such preachers as Benjamin Franklin, David Lipscomb, H. Leo Boles, Foy E. Wallace, etc., they turn out a product that doesn't resemble a gospel sermon as much as it resembles a moral or philosophic lecture by Harry Emerson Fosdick, Clovis Chappell, or Norman Vincent Peale.

Recently a preacher told me of the last three meetings through which he had sat, conducted by three of our best-known preachers of the twentieth century. He said that there had not been as much gospel in all forty-five sermons as most of our older preachers used to put in one Of the last one of the three, he said that the preaching was witty, original, morally uplifting, entertaining, but that there was not a single sermon presented that could not have been enthusiastically delivered word for word by a sectarian evangelist! Preachers nowadays are being taught somewhere to avoid very carefully any references to the "plan" of salvation, to preach "commitment to Christ" rather than New Testament conversion. They are being educated out of the mistaken legalism of the preceding generations! They know now that we cannot stoutly maintain that Jesus has only one church, and that there are not Christians in all denominations! The whole approach seems to be that we are a little closer to being right than most of the other religious groups.

As stated above, no one is more conscious of his own short-comings than this writer, but I have had too many people say to me, after hearing an "old-fashioned" sermon on the conditions of salvation or the unity or identity of the church, "I haven't heard a sermon like that since I was a child!" Or, "Why don't we have preaching like that any more?"

Those of us who preach need to crucify some of our pride and our originality and dust off some volumes of the "legalistic" and "fundamentalistic" works of the pioneers whose influences have brought us where we are. The use of them in the preparation of our sermons will instill in them a power not to be found in the pretty new volumes issuing from Chicago University and Harvard!