Archive: The Question

Archive: The Question

Archive: The Question

By Lon Woodrum Evangelist, author and Contributing Editor of “Good News” Reprinted from Christian Economics Magazine

Our world may fall or survive according to how it answers an old question. Jesus put that question, not only to the argumentative Pharisees, but to all the ages that should come after Him: What think ye of Christ?

Responding to this question as God wills requires something of a death-march, a self-dying, a surrender of man’s most prized possession, his pride. It involves man’s recognition of God’s sovereignty, the acceptance of the “foolishness” of the Gospel.

This is not easy; for man is stubbornly wrong, not right; amazingly evil, not good. The bent away from God is ever more terrible than he thinks. He harbors more hell than he knows. He rejects truth in a measure greater than he imagines. He lies to himself with ingenuity. He deceives himself successfully. As an old maxim-maker said, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

A tendency of the Church today is to explode into political or social action, with a lessening emphasis on the individual, redemptive aspects of the Gospel; that is, to act rather than to think spiritually.

We do not wholly discount social action. But both political and social action can be dangerous if we do not think deeply about the claims of Christ before we act. Intensity of action without Christian motivation is dangerous. Men acted in Germany under Hitler, and in Russia under Stalin. Young men are acting today on college campuses-men who refer to hard-core Communists as “fuddy-duddy revolutionaries”!

Only when we have given reverent thought to Christ and, like Simon Peter, have come to know Him as “the Son of the living God”; have taken His Word without question; have been given the dynamic of His Spirit, are we truly capable of genuine Christian social action.

Actually, it is not enough that we think about Christ. Men have been thinking about Him a long time. He has thrust Himself irresistibly into the world’s mind. The philosopher, historian, scientist, theologian cannot escape Him. But it is what we think of Him that matters. When He was on earth, men thought on Him. Some were ready to crucify Him; others were ready to die for Him.

The New Testament reports that some thought He was a bad man. The Romans saw Him as an enemy of the state; the pharisees saw Him as a foe of the Church. The religious chieftains were especially disturbed by His testimony that He and the Father were one. This made Him not only undesirable, but dangerous to them. So Jesus was to them a false prophet; even worse, a false messiah.

Others saw Jesus as a madman. Only a mentally disturbed man could make such outlandish claims as He made! Consider His remark: “Before Abraham was, I am!” Into what delusions of grandeur must a mind reach before it could announce a thing like that! Then there was that other ridiculous thing He said—”He that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live!”

However, some saw Jesus as the God-man. This was what He claimed to be, of course. He put the challenge squarely before men, saying that if they couldn’t believe Him because of His words, they should believe Him because of His works. Indeed, His works were amazing. His was a power they had never witnessed in another; He bore authority that was both frightening and comforting. How could you disregard a Man who could call back the dead, or make a hurricane lie down like a pet dog?

Other things about him could not be brushed off: His holiness, His insight into man’s nature, His knowledge of God. Small wonder one of them finally cried out: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

Today, with our wing-scream in the skies, our thunder in the earth and oceans, we are still forced to think about this Man from Nazareth. To some He is still evil; to others mad. To still others He is the God-man, the last, finest hope of earth.

If He is other than He claims to be, His critics are right: He is either bad or mad. But if He is all He claims to be, we are confronted with the most amazing fact in the world: God’s invasion of human history as a personal Redeemer; God, becoming Justifier of the unjust, Saviour of the ungodly.

Little wonder the philosophic Greeks called that insanity, for it sounds irrational to “the wisdom of this world.” It mocks all our legal systems, makes havoc or our human judgments. Yet this is precisely what the Gospel teaches.

Many things there are to think about in our moment of history; the threat of a global thermonuclear holocaust; nearly half a hundred wars and revolutions going on in the earth; protestations from dangerous young minds; racial conflict, the escalation of crime until some experts fear national anarchy in our land; apostasy of men from the old spiritual standards, and declension of morals. But if we will not think of Christ in the right way, soon it may not matter what we think about all these other things!

What think ye of Christ?

That is THE question.

Archive: The Question

Archive: It Took a Miracle

Archive: It Took a Miracle

By George Anderson, Pastor, Mt. Oak United Methodist Church, Mitchellville, Maryland

I was a Church member and a pastor for several years before I became a regenerated Christian, a man of the second birth.

In those days before I found Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I was hard-put to explain the miracles in the New Testament. In discussions with young people, I would often be asked the question, “If God did such miracles as the Bible describes, then why doesn’t He do miracles now?”

I remember that I took great pains to explain that the Bible was written in a pre-scientific era by men who did not have the benefits of our advanced scientific knowledge. Therefore, many things that seemed miraculous to them in those far-off days could be logically or scientifically explained by us today. I also would explain to the young people that the Scriptures were written several years after the occurrences they were seeking to describe. And in the meantime, between the event and the reporting of the event, the story had been embellished—a perfectly human tendency.

Finally, I would explain that the Gospel writers were trying to present Jesus as a worthy individual of great importance whose teachings should be heeded. The disciples had to present Jesus as the chief miracle-worker of his age in order to build Him up in the eyes of primitive people who believed in miracles and miracle workers, and who would not have listened to Jesus if they had not felt that He had supernatural powers. Now, I reasoned, we live in a scientific age. We believe in Jesus’ greatness without any primitive reference to miracle working powers.

All this is what I used to say, before I became a regenerated man. Now I think the Lord has helped me to see that all this way of thinking which I have just been describing is essentially very dishonest. It is a nice way of covering up the naked truth which is that I didn’t believe in the miracles and felt that the Scriptural accounts of them were lies.

Of course I couldn’t come right out and say that. So I, like many other theological liberals, invented some nice-sounding ways of saying essentially the same thing while appearing to be very faithful and very intellectual. The truth is that the supernatural powers and results which Jesus displayed in the natural course of His reported day to day activities, and His dependence upon God to bring about ends which go beyond the natural expectations of unregenerated men, were as incredible to the people of the first century as they are to the people of the scientific 20th century. You simply can’t explain them. You either accept them or reject them as a matter of Christian faith.

As a regenerated man who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord of my life, I find it very easy and natural to believe in His miracles. If Jesus is Lord, there is nothing impossible for Him.

Now, as a regenerated man, when I am asked the question, “Why doesn’t God perform miracles today?” I answer simply, “He does.” I have seen some of God’s miracles. He is healing the sick through faith. He is providing the means to expand many Christian ministries. He is answering the requests and providing for the needs of His people. He is moving among his people in fantastic and exciting ways more miraculous, even, than the supernatural happenings recorded in the Scriptures. The abundant life which is the goal of the regenerated people of God, takes as a matter of course the supernatural intervention of God to bring about ends which go beyond the natural expectations of unregenerated man.

Archive: The Question

Archive: The Laymen Finally Got My Attention

Archive: The Laymen Finally Got My Attention

By Merle G. Weaver, Assistant Pastor, Oak Lawn United Methodist Church, Dallas, Texas

I’m one of those Methodist preachers who was introduced to Christ by three laymen: a Presbyterian, an Episcopalian, and a Methodist, at a luncheon.

After 20 years in the “active” ministry of the Church, I look back now and realize that’s all it was—20 years of activity. I thank God for the Church and I thank God for those three laymen.

In 1967, my life took a sharp turn for the worse. In my 46th year of existence, and after 20 years in the ministry, I realized that my life was a failure. It all was brought forcefully to my attention by my ministerial peers that “my” cleverness, “my” abilities, and all “my good works for God” were not getting the job done. I had reached the peak of my ministerial career. I had climbed to the top, salary-wise, and, I thought, in prestige. But my Board of Trustees, which included laymen and ministers of the conference, painfully brought me down from my “ivory tower” and good job in the church institutional field.

I felt I was a failure! I surrendered everything I had left of Merle Weaver to the resurrected and living Christ. But let me tell you how Christ entered my life.

In my crisis, I began searching the Good News for Modem Man (the paperback edition of the New Testament produced by the American Bible Society). I had a strange, new hunger for the Word of God.

One day, a man whom I did not know called me at the request of a mutual friend. He invited me to a Bible study group. I put him off for several weeks because I had no nights open. Then he told me about a group of businessmen that met each Thursday morning at 7:30. I was trapped; I had nothing going on in my life at that hour, so I consented to go.

Tuesday he called to say: “Let’s get acquainted ahead of time—come and have lunch with me.”

He “ganged up” on me with two other Christian friends, and we four went to a nice, plush private club for lunch.

George gave his witness first. Then John. By now, I wanted to tell what was happening to me—unload, so to speak, and remind them that “total commitment” would have to wait a bit, because, “I had to be practical.”

John then said: “Weaver, can’t you trust Christ for everything? I do, and this is where the joy comes.”

That afternoon, in my car, I was miserable. I was parked on a busy Dallas street, sitting there reading the Letter to the Hebrews, when I made my decision • for Christ, based on something I read in the Scriptures “Do you want the praise of men or the approval of God?”

I said: “I’ll take the approval of God—I know what men can and will do to me.”

I decided right there to throw my whole life on God’s promise and believe in the resurrected and living Saviour.

What a relief came! I knew for the first time that all my past sins were wiped out by my complete faith in this person of Jesus Christ. An assurance came into my heart for the first time in my life like nothing I had ever experienced. I wrote the word “Peace” in the margins of my Bible. From then on, everything I read spoke to me of a new and exciting idea that Christ was now actually living in me. Now He had a surrendered vessel through whom He could do His own work. For the first time, I recognized that I had become a part of the “Body of Christ.”

My whole family situation changed! My work and ministry took on excitement and real purpose. God has blessed me with power as I share the name and person of my Christ with everyone who will listen to this Good News for Modern Man.

Looking back, I can see how marvelously God worked to bring me into His Kingdom.

Someone—a Christian friend—saw my struggle and called for help on my behalf. God provided a man whom I did not know to set the stage for life’s greatest drama and miracle. About six months earlier, two businessmen in the downtown area got together to pray, as to how they could be used to witness to other businessmen. Little did they know how God was going to use them. Soon there were three. It was these three who got my attention.

They were honest! They talked straight to me, a preacher, about Christ. But, how?

First, they thought of me as a person—not a title. I stood in need of God’s grace in spite of the fact that I was on the staff of a local Methodist Church. I was not infallible. More especially, I did not have the last word on the doctrines of the Bible. This is where laymen and preachers become equal. In spite of my “theological training,” the Gospel of Grace is not automatically dispensed to those of “much learning.” In I Corinthians 1:21, it says: “For God in His wisdom made it impossible for men to know Him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, God decided to save those who believe … for what seems to be God’s foolishness is wiser than men’s wisdom, and what seems to be God’s weakness is stronger than men’s strength.”

The Grace of God is a gift. It must be received and accepted on the basis of faith plus nothing.

Second, these three laymen talked to me honestly. They were “pretty sure” I was not a “born again” believer, and started praying for me. God could reach me when they couldn’t. But God had also shown them how they could witness to me. As my friend later told me, “He needed to be God’s love letter to me.”

They came honestly to me with their witness, armed with choice Scripture sentences like these: “He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son hath not life.” “For by grace are we saved; it is the gift of God and that not of works lest any man should boast.”

At first, I was defensive to think that they would question my “religion.” This was a pretty good indication that their guess was not too far wrong; that I did, indeed, stand in need of God’s Grace. God did the “saving.” I received Christ later that same day. They didn’t need to push me into a corner or into an argument. Their witness and the Scripture had its effect.

God used three laymen to reach a preacher who, in all sincerity, thought he was a Christian and had been working “for” God for 20 years. And therein lies the difference. When I asked Christ to come into my life, I no longer thought I was a Christian, I knew I was “born spiritually” forever. I am no longer working “for” God—God finally has me as a vessel through whom He can do His own work.

The tables are turned. Laymen have become my “spiritual advisors,” my friends, and my prayer partners. I shall be forever grateful to them for introducing me to the Saviour. And, they taught me how to lead a person to Christ.

If there is a preacher or a layman who does not know how to lead another to Christ, let me share what these three laymen taught me. The only way a person becomes a Christian is to receive Christ. One receives Him only by asking Christ to come into his life. This fact is revealed in Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in.” That’s a fact! God does not lie! It happens every time! Whenever a person really asks Christ to come in, Christ comes as Holy Spirit who forgives, cleanses, and assures. The Spirit of God does the “birthing.”

If you, reader, have never experienced this spiritual birth, stop right now, and say aloud: “Lord Jesus, forgive my sins. I open the door of my life and receive you as my Saviour and Lord. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be. Thank you for coming into my life and hearing my prayer as you promised.”

You, Mr. Layman, “go, then, to all people everywhere and make them my disciples … I will be with you always …” (Matthew 28:19)

Archive: The Question

Archive: The Ministerial Faith Crisis Seen by a Local Pastor

Archive: The Ministerial Faith Crisis Seen by a Local Pastor

By Howard E. Chattin, Pastor, United Methodist Church, Southport, Indiana

Once a dog food company held a sales meeting. The president was pacing the floor. “We came out with this new dog food and everybody agrees it’s the most nutritious on the market,” he declared. A chorus of agreement came from the salesmen. “We have the highest protein and the highest vitamin content.” Again, full agreement. “We have the most attractive packaging and the best sales organization in the business. But look at that sales chart—terrible! What’s wrong?”

Finally a little salesman on the back row got to his feet and said, “Sir, the dogs won’t eat it.”

The American people are not accepting the pap that passes for religion in many of our churches. Sales technique won’t do it. Packaging is not the answer. We’ve got to re-examine the product.

Let me quickly outline a few contrasting ideas, all of which are being presented vigorously by ministers in the confusion of theology today. Of course there are some differences of opinion with which all of us can healthfully live. But certain ideas are what I call the “Mutually Exclusives.” That is, if one is true, the other just cannot be.

(1). Underlying much of our problem today is the traditional doctrine of Judgment versus the widely held view of Universalism.

Jesus spoke often about rewards and punishments, about separating the sheep from the goats. By actual count, said more about Hell than He did about Heaven. Yet our age is so enamored of universalism and the term “acceptance” that a teacher of youth at our church camp, after assuring a young person that the reward of a good Christian life was Heaven, also added that the worst man of all was also destined for Heaven because of God’s love and acceptance. Either this is true or the Bible is true in saying some will be saved and others lost.

(2). There is a contrast between the advocates of supernaturalism and those who would reduce Christianity to a baptized naturalism or humanism.

By supernaturalism, I mean prayer, and Spirit, and resurrection. For me, prayer is not self-hypnosis nor auto-suggestion. It is contact with a Power outside myself. But I have been informed that one pastor felt his counselling cases had been terribly muddled by previous pastors who had said, “Let’s pray about it.” Either God is greater than the world He created, or the world is greater than God.

(3). I believe in a Living God, but there are many across the Church who would try to make palatable to us the notion that God is dead.

They say we need to understand the “God is Dead” theologian’s language. And I say that these men are well educated men who know how to handle the King’s English. They are saying exactly what they mean. The two ideas are mutually exclusive and a confrontation must come between those who believe God is alive and those who believe He is not.

(4). I say that the Church, with all its admitted imperfections, is of God and shall remain to the end of time. Yet others are seeking to abandon the Church as totally irrelevant.

I heard a Methodist leader on the platform of Christian Theological Seminary say, “At the time I was a pastor, I knew of no church in Indiana, including my own, in which the worship service had any meaning for me whatever.” Either the Church is important or it is not.

(5). It is the strong conviction of many of us that Christianity involves a basic decision about the integration of life around Christ; and that good works become a manifestation of that fact.

Some are convinced, however, that Christianity is social action only. They are no longer interested in conversion on a personal level. When a circle from the Woman’s Society of one of our city churches went to one of our Methodist social agencies to offer their help they were told by the minister-director, “I am not interested in souls. I am interested in bodies.” Either the whole person (body and soul) needs saving or not.

(6). Many of us believe that the Christian life involves discipline and an honest movement toward holiness of life.

Others are proclaiming a world embracing secularism. They want no truck with the “legalism” of the ten commandments, but prefer rather to teach our young people their version of “situation ethics.” Either God has absolute standards of truth and perfection or He does not, and every man is free to do as he pleases.

(7). Many of us still believe in the life eternal and fashion our theology and life against such an eternal backdrop.

For Paul said, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (I Cor. 15:19). Yet I have been told by church leaders that “This life is the only one I know and the only one with which I am concerned.” Either life has an eternal dimension or it does not.

All these things come under the category of “Mutually Exclusives,” and must submit themselves to confrontation. The confrontation must come. For how long can the Church tolerate leadership that preaches that “God is Dead” and thumbs its nose at the Church? And I remind you, I have not reported to you theory or hear-say. I can add names to every idea presented.

Some have told me the course I advocate is disruptive of peace in the Church. And I only reply that surgery for the removal of malignancy is always a disruptive process. On the other hand, our present tranquility is the sleep of death. Our statistical reports reveal how far that process has already gone.

Some have feared that such a course is divisive. And I only answer, “We are already divided. I am not willing to go further undoing—and being undone—by the words of other church leaders.” At this point I can only pray for the strength and courage of that sturdy German Reformer Martin Luther. His words have become my own: “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Here I stand; I can do no otherwise. God help me! Amen.”

Archive: The Question

Archive: The Faith Crisis in a Seminary

Archive: The Faith Crisis in a Seminary

By Dale A. Sanders, Pastor, United Methodist Churches of Bartley and Indianola, Nebraska

Ever since high school, I knew I was called to the Methodist ministry. At a young age I was in love with Our Lord, His Church—and  I was deeply impressed by the sometimes quiet, sometimes desperate search for faith made grateful for sure peace by my peers and elders.

Like the apocryphal story of the caretaker at Westminster Abbey who said he had worked there for 40 years and “Thank God, I’m still a Christian!” my involvement in high school Youth for Christ and college Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship did much to keep me true. Then came seminary.

I attended United Methodism’s most self-proclaimedly liberal seminary. During the first year I was shook hard. I vaguely knew this school had a reputation for liberalism.  Indeed, when a local pastor learned of my seminary, he put his arm around my shoulders and said “I hope you are well-grounded in the Word.”·

It would be getting ahead of the story to say I graduated with a stronger evangelical faith—a faith made grateful for the sureties of the Gospel. Let me tell you a little of what it was like.

My seminary is not theologically oriented. Oh, there are courses in historical theology and some with dogmatic sounding titles which read like the Apostles’ Creed. But theology was minimal, even in these told that if we wanted easy beliefs we ought to transfer to a Baptist seminary. So we wrestled with all the other ologies—and called it theology. The seminary was psychologically oriented. My immediate impression was not the ritual of new acquaintances but the process of being “psyched out.” That process lasted three years. It is a terrifying experience if one is converted to it. Nothing changes faster than the fads of psychology (unless it be contemporary theology). And several professors and most students were so sold on psychology that nothing a student said escaped Freudian analysis. I might add that an evangelical Freudian slip was always given special consideration.

Why special consideration? I suppose because I didn’t fit the usual liberal “pattern of expectations.” You see, except for a few discerning liberals, they are content to label all conservative evangelicals as fundamentalists (too little fun, too much damn, and too little mental). But I didn’t fit the formula, so consequently I was a creature to be alternately shunned and examined.

I had a lot of fun at seminary. One of the oddest aspects of my liberal colleagues (and there are all sorts of liberals) was their inability to have fun. They laughed-but most often it was over some witty cynicism or theological snideness or Freudian flareup. And there were parties—such sad parties! They usually turned into drinking sessions loaded with existential crises (all verbal of course). The stock phrase was “you’re feeling threatened.” Almost every encounter was a shade of psyche.

Essentially my fellow seminarians were prudes. They dressed conservatively—spent conservatively—and thought conservatively. By conservative I mean they were in a rut. They could engage in only one kind of fun—destruction. What “fun” to be self-flagellated at “true confession” movies and parties and discussion groups! Certainly orthodoxy was a priori out-of-date and out-of-the-question. The fact that most of my seminary classmates knew next to nothing about the Bible and Christian philosophy and history is beside the point … “irrelevant” to use a seminary cliche.

Admittedly, a number of students were rebelling against loveless fundamentalism. And not a few professors also. Almost half the faculty were exiles from the deep South. They forever ridiculed all conservative evangelicals above the Mason-Dixon Line as Southern wolves in Northern sheep’s wool. Very few could conceive of Christianity as a redemptive religion of love. Words like “hell” and concepts like “eternal separation from God” were stumbling blocks equated with bigotry.

In my opinion these were largely emotional rather than intellectual stumbling blocks. Faculty and students could not overcome the stultifying experiences of growing up in the Church. This partially accounts for the incredible degrees of hatred for the Church I encountered at seminary. Yes, I said hatred. There was more “curse the Church and its Gospel” at seminary than I have met in all my years outside seminary.

The mental life at seminary was unquestionably challenging. What proved a real challenge to others was an evangelical who refused to fill the popular role of well-meaning ignoramus. Not a few were dismayed at my receiving the National Methodist Seminary Award for 1968, plus graduating with a high grade point average.

It is my observation that the least intellectually capable students are the most self-assuredly liberal. Why? I do not know.

The list of unorthodoxies taught at seminary was ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Psychology and sociology did explain away personal conversion experiences and the community of faith. Philosophy and ethics did teach the inferiority of Christian thinking and a radically confusing situation ethic. Biblical studies were never about the Bible itself, but theories of 19th century criticism. History and historical theology delighted in the sins of Christendom. Theology was non-existent except in terms of Tillich. Absolutely no historic Christian teaching was sacrosanct—least of all the Person of Our Lord. Not only was God dead but also Jesus and the Spirit.

What, then, kept me true to the faith? First, praying parents. I know my parents well enough to thank God for their constant prayers on my behalf. Second, faithful ministers and good churches. Third, extra-church ministries like Inter-Varsity which helped me over critical doubts and spiritual drought. And fourth, I have never forgotten the reality of Christ’s coming into and remaining in my heart and life. Often when plagued by doubt and confusion at what was occurring in seminary classrooms I turned to the Lord. In prayer and Scripture I found that He stood sure in the vagaries of seminary which have already shifted radically since my recent graduation.

Dale A. Sanders, the author of this article, serves as Pastor of the United Methodist Churches in Indianola and Bartley, Nebraska. He was educated at California State College and Seattle Pacific College, where he earned his B.A. degree. He did graduate work at Oregon State University and Portland State College. He graduated in 1968 from Methodism’s Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, with a Master of Divinity degree. In seminary he was chairman of the program committee and registrar of the Iliff Week of Lectures. He was recipient of the National Methodist Seminary award in 1968.

Archive: The Question

Archive: Faith Crisis in the Methodist Ministry

Archive: Faith Crisis in the Methodist Ministry

By Charles W. Keysor, Editor

Crisis is all about us, it seems. Church leaders wax eloquent about an assortment of woes:
*Shortage of ministers.
*Dwindling professions of faith.
*Sagging church school attendance.
*Rejection of the church by young adults and teens.
*Failure to be involved in the so-called “gut issues” of poverty, race, war and de-humanization.

All these are real crises. But we hear nobody saying much about THE crisis which is the root cause of all the rest: the faith crisis in our ministry.

Jesus said, “one blind man cannot lead another one; if he does, both will fall into the ditch.” (Luke 6:39). And the “ditch” of faith-lessness is where we find ourselves today, as United Methodists.

Ask the laymen who hear their preachers declaring, “Jesus Christ is not necessary.”

Ask the minister who was voted into full conference membership without ever being questioned about the nature of his faith.

Ask the grieving widow who received this consolation from a “relevant” minister:  “Everlasting life is a myth … a superstition of the 19th century. Nobody knows what happens after death.”

Ask the teen-agers who were encouraged by their adult counselor at a Methodist camp to swim nude—boys and girls together.

Ask any believer who has experienced three years in a Methodist seminary.

Ask the congregations who have heard ministers insist that Playboy Magazine is more important than the Bible, as a vehicle of truth.

Ask the delegation of Methodist laymen who, in consternation, heard their own bishop admit that he was powerless to deal with faith-deficient ministers under his supervision.

To all whose heads are not hopelessly buried in illusion, the ministerial faith crisis is a malignant reality. Its bitter fruit is everywhere … at all levels.

The problem, of course, is that ministers who are deficient in New Testament faith breed faith-deficient congregations. And so it goes ad infinitum—a vicious circle of unbelief that grows more serious with each passing generation.

The first step in meeting any crisis is to recognize that there is a crisis. For this reason, “Good News” offers on the following pages a seven-part feature on Methodism’s faith crisis.

The causes of this crisis go back many years, to a gradual abandonment of the whole New Testament Gospel, starting before 1800. Progressively, little-by-little, Methodism drifted away from its sound Wesleyan heritage. Decade after decade, seminaries and the ministry led Methodism farther and farther away from “Christ and Him crucified” …  toward the current attitude of “Christ is not necessary.” Those interested in the sorry story ought to read and ponder, “The Theological Transition In American Methodism” by Robert E. Childs. (Abingdon 1965, $4.00).

The causes of our ministerial faith crisis are complex, deep-rooted, and longstanding. But common-sense points to some sound principles that could help solve the problem.

First: Methodist seminaries ought to strengthen Christian faith in budding ministers …  not uncertainty, bitterness, doctrinal ignorance, and hatred for the Church of Jesus Christ. (See page 16).

Second: Boards of Ministerial Training and Qualification should demand that all candidates for Methodist ordination understand and believe “our doctrines,” as specified in our Articles of Religion.

Third: Every ordained Methodist minister ought to be required a glad, spontaneous, and genuine personal confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Fourth: Ministers not able to make this minimal New Testament faith-profession should be relieved of their credentials until conversion has become a fact. (Are empty pulpits more to be feared than faith-less preachers? Certainly there are many laymen able to preach the Good News.)

Fifth: Let bishops and district superintendents lay aside less vital matters and concentrate on strengthening the faith of ministers in their charge.

Sixth: Let ministers come together for prayer, study and discussion of the faith. Declare a moratorium on conference gossip, ecclesiastical politics, and griping about low salaries.

Seventh: Let ministers who already know Christ help other ministers experience the new birth.

Eighth: Let laymen be aware that large numbers of ministers privately doubt or deny the faith professed at ordination.

Ninth: Let laymen minister to faith-deficient pastors in a Christ-like spirit. Remember that two laymen of the First Century, Priscilla and Aquila, helped an off-beat preacher named Apollos by explaining “to him more correctly the Way of God.” (Acts 18:26).

Tenth: Let all God’s people pray without ceasing that God will increase the faith of His ministers. (Would the faith crisis have developed in our ministry if multitudes of laymen had prayed faithfully for their ministers?)

Eleventh: Let each local church exercise care in “launching” candidates into the ministry. Be sure each person seeking church endorsement knows Christ through vital experience and is basically grounded in the essential truths of Scripture.

Too often the local church has defaulted in Its crucial role as “first hurdle” into the ministry. The demands of the Gospel must become a reality at every step in the long process of preparing men to serve Christ as ordained ministers of the United Methodist Church. We must wake up to the crippling faith crisis that has brought the Church to open apostasy.

We must face this crisis boldly. Guided by the Holy Spirit, we must seek what is best for the Kingdom of God, the Church, and the persons who are involved. Impossible? Too huge a task?

The Lord of the Church reminds us, “This is impossible for men; but for God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:26).