Nation now more secular than sacred

2/6/2008

By Glenn Martin
Guest Columnist

Billy Graham became the voice of Christian evangelism for much of the 20th century.

His radio and television programs were called “The Hour of Decision.” People came to his revivals by the tens of thousands. We often wondered why. In looking back and listening again, we can know the reason why so many were so moved by the message.

Billy Graham preached a gospel of repentance as did John the Baptist and Simon Peter, St. Paul and Jesus.

The message of the modern church has been characterized as one of positive self-image, theological therapy, material prosperity.

Whatever reality those words hold must never allow us to bypass our sinful nature, our need for repentance and forgiveness and the absolute necessity of personal decisions in the process. Blessed assurance does not come from infant baptism and confirmation classes.

Masses came to the “Hour of Decision” because they knew they would be challenged by the Word of God to face up to a sinful nature and make a choice between Jesus Christ and the way of the world ... a choice that would be the beginning of a new creature in Christ Jesus. The self image then is one of a forgiven and forgiving sinner saved by the grace of God.

Many of us come into the kingdom of God without attending a Billy Graham Crusade, but never without belief, repentance, forgiveness and a personal commitment to the one whose blood was shed for us and for all who would make that decision.

I have seen our once powerful Methodist Church’s influence go from a position of strength to one of weakness.

We are losing our rural churches, becoming a church of senior citizens, failing to evangelize our own communities and diminishing clerical leadership.

We have followed an echelon of educational degrees into a wilderness of academies which tend to deny the authority of scripture and the cleansing power of the blood of the sacrificial Lamb of God. We resemble our culture more than our God and have allowed our nation to become more secular than sacred.

Our churches have stood by the last 20 years while our state has become the casino capital of the Bible Belt. The gambling industry is now the biggest owner and most rapid investor in our home state.

Only time will tell what corruption will follow where money is the top and bottom line. Support of education is only an excuse to get in the door. The process and principles of gambling is a wrong lesson for our students.

In the early church as in the early Methodist Church, world changers were devout and fearless disciples who had made the one big decision and persuaded others. Can we do it again?

Martin is a retired clergy member of the Mississippi Conference and a frequent contributor to the “Advocate.”