Be Careful, Preacher

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.

6 thoughts on “Be Careful, Preacher

  1. Sir, I respect all the work you are doing. I also agree that too many preachers feel that they have a right to judge Christ’s bride and they need to be very careful, He loves her very much. What I question, and I do so with respect, is your beleif that one cannot choose to turn their back on Christ’s grace and therefore lose their personal salvation. It is not making them stronger than God, anymore than some one that does not choose salvation in the first place makes them stronger than God — God wishes none should perish, but we have free will, even after we first believe and confess. Rev 3:5 say our name can be blotted out, it was once there. Rom. 1:27 says that if we don’t retain God in our hearts (it must be their to retain)… Heb 6:4-7 clearly says there is a point of turning from God after once knowing Him. Luke 15:24 in the parable says his son is alive again, was alive once, then dead and alive again. I don’t know, perhaps you are right. I would like to believe that my loved ones who have walked away and live in gross sin are saved, it would be easier. But in love I need to tell people that they can’t just believe once and then turn away when times get hard or when the world seems bright – the path is still narrow and we must stay on it. I am not talking about works but repentance a change in our minds that will produce a change in our lives. I do agree that there is no place for preaching anger or hate, but sometimes truth is tough too.

  2. Dr. McKeever – It’s been quite some time since I’ve commented on an article but I just felt compelled to do so with this one. As you might expect, you & I disagree on the issue of eternal security; however, I do think that it would be well worth your time to write a letter to the “radio preacher.” I’m sure he’d get a kick out of hearing from you…and then…maybe he wouldn’t. Take care, my friend!

  3. I don’t always comment on your articles but I couldn’t help myself on this one since others had. If we can’t believe in “eternal” security, how can we believe at all? I certainly know that when I became a Christian I didn’t always live the kind of life God wanted me to and thankfully I can be forgiven. There are probably many instances when I didn’t make the right choice in a situation. But I am certain of my salvation and security because Christ doesn’t have to die every time I sin – He only died once – praise God. I am assured of my eternal salvation just as I am assured of forgiveness for my sins always as long as I repent.

  4. Doctor…when Jesus died for my sins and I became a believer, all my sins, past-present-and future was covered by His blood. What I will lose because of sins and a failure to repent, is loss of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ! Much harm has been done to fellow believers but someone taking verses out of context and making them “prove” their doctrines. Keep up the good work.

  5. Growing up I once asked my preacher about eternal salvation and his response stuck with me…He said, “How can you ever not deserve something you didn’t deserve in the first place?” I think that is what makes GRACE so beautiful. I am sure glad it’s all about what Jesus did for me…PTL!!!

  6. Dr. McKeever,

    I understand how you feel about that radio preacher. It reminds me of a series of letters I received recently from a local “prophet” who felt God wanted him to send letters to each local pastor and tell us how our churches were not faithful to the word, not preaching the gospel, not living for Christ, etc. (We’re only a two-hour drive north of Jacksonville, so maybe he’s a cousin of your radio preacher friend.) I glanced over the letters, saw the direction they were going, and threw them away. This “prophet” has never visited my church, never heard me preach, and does not know about the mission-minded, evangelistic, loving people in our church who are making a real difference in our community. I know that we are far from perfect, but why waste my time on somebody who claims to know the Bible but ignores Matthew 7:1?

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