A. J. Smith
Date Posted Jan. 17, 2009

In Romans 1:16 Paul says the Gospel is the power of God. Does the modern church exhibit this power in any marked degree? Is there a divine energy that exerts itself upon the sensibilities of the masses, which transforms their lives and alters their dispositions? We know there is not. Let us not point the finger of scorn at the world for avoiding the church and failing to darken its doors. What are we offering a perishing, hell-bound world? What is there in your church and in my church that arrests the attention of the man or woman on the street who is without God? Is there anything in our churches that draws the churchless multitudes, that warns them of an impending judgment?

We preachers are charged by the world with being mortally afraid of presenting God's truth as it should be presented. We might as well be honest and own up to it, that we have failed to preach the everlasting Gospel that is able to save a bleeding, dying world. Are we stating the truth of the Son of God anywhere near as it deserves to be stated? "You preachers," said a theater manager to a pastor friend of mine in Salem, Oregon a few years ago, "preach the truth as if it were fiction, and we present fiction as truth. That's why your churches are almost empty and our show houses are filled to capacity."

One of the most astounding news items in recent times is the confession by Stanley High as reported in Time magazine.

I don't make any apology for putting the failure of the church on this personal level . . . I think that the first business of the church is to redeem me. And I don't mean to redeem me in the merely social sense which convinces me that the Golden Rule ought to be my Confession of Faith. By redeeming me, I mean personal redemption the process by which I'm spiritually shaken apart and spiritually put together again, and from which I the personal I emerge a totally different person. . . .

Ever since my Sunday School days I've had it dinned into my ears that I'm a Child of God, that I'm made in His image. It seems to me that those who lay so much emphasis on my bearing such a resemblance to the Almighty are not only mistaken about me, they're also mistaken about history.

Man was made in the image of God in the first chapter of Genesis. He didn't stay that way very long. In fact, he only stayed that way until the third chapter of Genesis. Then he had what the theologians call a Fall. He's never been the same since not on his own. . . . The whole of the Bible and the whole of the ministry of Jesus, as I understand it, were designed not to persuade man how good he is on his own, but how evil he is on his own. And how good, by the process of redemption . . . he can become. . . .

I, personally, need the church as I never needed it before. I happen to know that my fellow laymen need it as never before and are ready, at the slightest suggestion to acknowledge that need. But the church we need will have to have more of Dante and Dostoevsky in its message and less of Alfred Lord Tennyson and Eddy Guest; more of the Last Judgment and less of the Golden Rule. It will not only have a living God, but a Live Devil. Its Heaven will have a Hell for its alternative. Its objective so far as I'm concerned will not be my cultivation, but my re-birth. I might fail that kind of church. But that kind of church could not fail me ["Remembering the Fall," Time , 18 August 1947].

To my way of thinking, Dr. High's confession and indictment of the church in failing to offer him what his heart yearned for, should arouse every preacher in the nation. We might as well own up to it, that we have, to an appalling degree, failed those without the pale of the church as well as those within.

If the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation; then I ask, "Why is it not operating?" Has God changed? Has the Gospel lost its power? No, a thousand times no. The cause does not lie there. The trouble is with us men in the pulpit. We are not preaching the Gospel in power. The power of the Holy Spirit is lacking in the average sermon.

The prediction of General William Booth, which he made shortly before he died, is being fulfilled before our very eyes. Upon being asked what he considered the greatest danger of the coming century would be, he answered: "Religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell."

When Christianity alters men's lives; then it is a force. If it does not, it is a farce! Our Lord said, when speaking about His church, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Is that your church and mine? If God should permit the dissolution of the visible church, as He did the Old Testament church, would we have a just complaint to offer? Can we give a reason why He should not?

Let us pray for a return of primitive Christianity, for the precipitation of an apostolic revival that will prove to a perdition-bound world, and a spiritually paralyzed church, that the true Gospel of Christianity is a force , and not a farce or a mere form!

Dr. Smith preached this message over radio in Greensboro, NC. Edited from an article in The People's Herald 10:3 (March 1948 ): 5-6.


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