Thursday, August 7, 2014

Famine of the Word

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it. (Amos 8:11-12 ESV)

Perhaps the prophesy is already upon us as it seems the Word of the Lord has become a scandal to the modern mind and the churches have surrendered the Word to the voice of the heart, the prevailing sentiment of the public mind, and a politically correct agenda that substitutes social advocacy and justice and environmental concerns for the Gospel of Christ crucified for sinners.  You be the judge.

I have found that it is harder and harder within the confines of the church to speak truthfully and forcefully the truth of God's Word.  We sit blindly by as our people consume spiritual resources at odds with the Gospel of the cross.  We sit silently as our people are quietly swayed by popular opinion on such things as the definition of marriage, the acceptability of homosexuality, the norm of cohabitation, and feminism.  We sit distracted while recreational activities and all sorts of other things steal away Sunday morning from the faith.  We sit almost approvingly as Oprah and a host of other media figures define what it means to be Christian and shape our people's piety away from Scripture and tradition to the shifting sand of their feelings and desires.  We sit envious of the mega success of the mega churches and borrow from them to fill the pews with whatever it takes -- even abandoning the Gospel of the cross and the liturgical face of worship to do it.

Our people do not know the kind of battles that rage around them over what Scripture says, whether it's voice can be trusted, and whether or not its voices is more infallible than our own reason,senses, and feelings.  But that is exactly what is happening around us.  I am not saying that we need to be moved by fear or that the battle is already lost.  What I do mean is that we should dance around the issues at play and the significance of those issues.  If our people are going to endure in their faith, they need to know what is going on around them and how easy it is to be lured away from the Word of the Lord that endures forever for the subjective truth good only for a moment and only for one person.

The media is incredibly effective in pursuing their points of view.  The world's appeal is to listen to the voice of the heart, to give into its desires without a second thought, and to let pleasure rule the day.  We in the Church are not nearly so effective in outlining the the battle field, defining what is at stake, and how important it is to know the Word of the Lord well enough to recognize and refuse what violates that Word.  

Knowing the Word of the Lord is not something nice to know.  It is what equips us to sort out truth from lies, the right path from error, and life from death.  Biblical illiteracy is not a cosmetic problem but a cancer in the Church that allows Christians to be vulnerable to those who fail to speak the Word faithfully and to be dependent upon others to guide them in what they should know for themselves.

The failure to teach this Word in the home dooms our children to weakness in the face of temptation and to be victims of those prone to influence them away from the truth that gives life, hope, and salvation.  Parental responsibility is not fulfilled only by providing good food, good shelter, good education, and good medical care.  All of these can be provided and we have failed in our parental responsibility to pass on the faith.  It is incredible to me how many children of churched families report that they never pray before meals or at bedtime, never discuss Biblical or moral questions with their parents, and can easily manipulate their parents into giving them what they want (including skipping worship and Sunday school).  Even if a child never missed Sunday school, attended every catechism class without fail, and was in worship every Sunday of his or her young life, they would still not have the same quantity of time or influence on them from the Church and the faith as they have experienced from the world, the media, etc...

The famine of the Word is not something we should look for in the future but a very real and profound problem of the present day.  I cannot tell you how many people visit our church on Sunday morning because they have grown weary of hearing political opinion, works righteousness, the glorification of feelings and desire, or a self-help agenda from various pulpits on Sunday morning.  They are hungry for the Gospel -- even when they are not exactly sure what that Gospel is.  Silence from the faithful is just as big a problem as the shouted voices of the world beckoning Christians to trust in themselves, their feelings, and their desires.  

Perhaps it was exactly this prophetic Word Jesus had in mind when He asked if He would find faith on earth when He returned on the last day.  Pastors need to make sure they do not squander the time given them from the pulpit or before the lectern in Bible study; they need to feed and equip the faithful for the battle of faithfulness all around them.  Adults need to take seriously the Lord's call to be in His Word, to be able to recognize its voice as the familiar voice of the Good Shepherd leading His sheep, and to be equipped to remain faithful amid the many and great temptations all around them.  Parents need to take their roles as mentors in the faith and teachers of God's Word to their children as they do all other aspects of child rearing. 


The Rev. Dr. John W. Sias said...
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The Rev. Dr. John W. Sias said...

True and timely words, Pastor Peters. Thank you!

President Forke of the Montana District shared a paper with his pastors a couple years ago under the same heading. I think you both are right---Amos' words are on target here and now. Here's a link to the paper, which I think is a worthy complement to your post:

Donna said...

Loved your "meanderings" today. I actually left a LCMS congregation recently because the Pastor decided that it was no longer necessary to have scripture read each Sunday and also eliminated the confession of the Creed. A fair number of the congregation left because they felt that they were not being fed each week. They were the remnant left to proclaim the Word.

Anonymous said...

Excellent diagnosis! I "see" the biggest problem to our church as the failure of parents to teach their children God's Word and prayers in the home and to faithfully bring their children to church. Priority for this is low -- seemingly compared to what it used to be.

I grew up in a Lutheran school. When I was in school the church funded the school entirely. Children attended free. If this had not been the case, I never would have been able to go. (We had a large family.) In fact, this was so important, home visits were made to get parishoners to enroll their children in the school. I believe that emphasis on Christian education in the past was a key to our strength as a church body. We still have strong schools, but I believe they could be stronger if congregational commitment could once again be there. (Not that it could ever be "free" again -- it is just too expensive now. But it is a common practice now for congreations to be uninvolved in the schools.) I, to this day, thank God everyday for that school that "raised" me. I don't know where I would be if I couldn't have had that.

Janis Williams said...


I think the hardest part must be for the faithful pastors out there who ARE preaching Law and Gospel. It seems that many in the pews (or theater seating) have already exchanged normal ears for itching ones.