This preacher made me mad Monday. While driving back from Alabama, I found a certain preacher on the radio and for some inexplicable reason, listened to his entire broadcast. Perhaps it was because he billed himself as “a true prophet of God for these last days.” Perhaps I lingered to see what kind of egomaniac would be so filled with his own sense of self-importance as to call himself that. Maybe I wanted to see what kind of prophecy he would utter. (I had never heard of him and, I think fortunately, I don’t recall his name.)
Alas, the man lived down to my worst expectations.
He was all negative. “The church is backslidden,” he said repeatedly, adding that “we are in the Laodicaean period of church history.” This reference is strictly a conjecture from preachers with time on their hands that the seven churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 2 and 3) actually represent seven stages of Christian history. There is not a single strand of evidence for that, but for those who enjoy negative preaching–delivering it and hearing it–the thought has a certain appeal.
Over and over the preacher slammed the Christian church. At the end of the broadcast, when they identified the church he pastors in Jacksonville, Florida, I found myself wondering if the smearing he did of the whole church also applies to the congregation he leads. What do you want to bet it doesn’t.
The preacher was dead certain of other false doctrines, too, such as the probability of backsliders losing their salvation. He quoted and misquoted scripture to prove his point. I kept wondering, “What about the Lord’s statement in John 10:28-29 that ‘no man’ or ‘no one’ can snatch them out of His hand.”
Sure enough, he mentioned those verses. Well, actually, he made a less than respectful reference to them. He admitted that the devil cannot get you out of the Lord’s hand and that no one else can, but you can do it yourself. Interesting bit of theology. The devil isn’t, and other people aren’t, but I am stronger than God, according to him. I can do what no one else can: I can make me lose my salvation.
I wish I could have a few minutes with that preacher to ask a couple of questions. If one loses his salvation, can he get it back? Show me one person in all the Bible who lost his salvation and then was saved a second time? Hebrews 6:6 says it is impossible for someone to be saved twice if he were to lose his salvation.
I’d like to ask him: why don’t you read the whole Bible before you start preaching your pet doctrines? And after you have read it, why not believe it? Jesus said, “He who believes on the Son of God has everlasting life.” (John 3:36) How simpler could He put it? But if I can have it and lose it and get it back and lose it again, friend, it ain’t eternal!
When you believe on Christ, you become a Son of God, the Bible teaches. But if you can have it and lose it and so on, God should have said we become His “friends.” Friends come and go, but a son is a son forever. He may be rebellious and lazy, or he may be faithful and zealous–but he’s your son. We do not discount the problem of backsliding. But the backslider who was saved in the first place is still saved, although in trouble with the Father.
I’d like to ask that preacher: how do you think the Lord Jesus likes it when He hears you slandering His Bride? When you run down the church, you are attacking the One for whom He laid down His life.
No one doubts that in many places, some churches are dead or dying. Many churches are filled with pretenders and deceivers and hypocrites. But to say that all churches are backslidden and dead–and then to have the nerve to call himself a prophet of God!
That is one fellow I do not want to be standing near at judgment. His comeuppance is not going to be pretty.
I’m supposing that the radio preacher was addressing his message to church members. It sounded like his purpose was to awaken all those sleeping Christians who belong to all those backslidden churches. But what would happen, I wonder, if an unbeliever were to stumble onto that program and hear that preacher pronounce all churches as ungodly and unbelieving and disobedient. He would have every right to conclude, “In that case, I don’t have to worry about going to church. They’re all failures.”
Plenty to give account of, preacher.
I toyed for the better part of Tuesday with writing the pastor a letter and calling these things to his attention. Maybe I should have or should yet. But it seems pointless. He would probably see it as an invitation to an argument, not as my sharing a genuine concern with him.
I would like that preacher to know our own perspective on those “backslidden” churches. I wish he could live and labor in this city and see God’s children flowing in from every direction, literally from many foreign countries as well as every state in the union, coming to help us rebuild.
These people don old clothes and masks and gloves and wade in to the sorriest, smelliest, sickest flooded houses you’ve ever seen to gut out and clean out so others can come behind them and rewire and rebuild. These “backsliders” are living proof of the reality of Jesus Christ in our world. They put their lives on hold, leave their families behind, use up their vacation weeks, and spend their own good money in order to help people they’ve never met–some of whom they may have criticized in the past as being worldly and ungodly because they lived in New Orleans and participated in its amusements–and yet here they are.
These are our heroes.
Sunday, I preached in one of those churches. Old Union Baptist Church is located in rural Alabama, a few miles from anywhere. Pastor Kenny Sudduth invited me to preach the next time I was heading that way to visit my parents. We settled on October 22, the morning service. The board on the wall said Old Union runs from 50 to 60 in attendance on Sundays. My 90-year-old mother came with me, in spite of aches and pains all over her body. She said, “I don’t want them wondering why your family didn’t come to support you.” In addition to her, my sister Carolyn and four members of her family came up from Jasper. My high-school classmate Lynn Pope, his wife Neta, and his sisters Deloria and Rita, drove down. It was a wonderful service, but someone was missing.
“Odford is not here,” his wife Linda Prestridge said. “He’s on his way to New Orleans.”
A dozen or so from the Baptist churches of Winston County were leaving at 10 am, driving to my city, and checking in to the Volunteer Village that night. They would spend the week rebuilding houses in East New Orleans.
Tuesday afternoon, I drove out to Curran Boulevard where Odford Prestridge and the group was hard at work. I had not seen this friend since high school days. And hey, he’s a couple of years older than me, yet here he was working like a day laborer getting paid by the hour. Impressive.
Director of Missions Al Hood and his wife Deronda were there, as was another longtime friend, Becky Crumpton, retired math teacher from the high school at Double Springs. Becky and my brother Ron graduated together back in…well, you know…a long time ago. The group was sawing and nailing and hauling and sweating. As I say, an impressive lot. They stopped long enough for me to address them and thank them and pray for them.
Al Hood said, “We just had a group get back from South Africa.” What’s this? A mission team from Double Springs, Alabama–my hometown–traveling to the other side of the planet? For what purpose? “We started a church there.” Truly amazing. And downright wonderful.
One member of the group was from Haleyville. Several from Double Springs. Odford hails from Poplar Springs.
Dead, backslidden churches? Not these. Not by a longshot.
Could it be that all the churches the radio preacher knows are indeed dead and backslidden and in danger of the Lord’s judgment? And could it be that he doesn’t know there are some live congregations where the Lord Jesus is loved and obeyed and the people are generous and faithful?
Maybe he needs to get out more. Someone invite him to New Orleans.