A short walk through an adjacent field took us to the church where his father was the pastor for many years. While there I discovered that John paid a great price for his convictions about the Bible, man’s need for a personal salvation through faith in Christ, and other important truths pertaining to holiness and godly Christian living. I was surprised to find out that he was not permitted to preach in the church of his youth because of his stand for these precious truths. He had become a non-conformist in the eyes of the Church of England and put out. Wesley was so moved by the strength of his passion for truth and a love for the souls of his hometown, that he preached in the churchyard, atop his father’s tombstone, to the townspeople who gathered there from night to night.
The memories I have of my visit to Wesley’s England, and my knowledge of other events in the life and ministry of John Wesley, has had a profound effect on me. The least of which is not the feeling of pain and hurt which he must have felt during those times when his former friends and followers shunned, neglected or even departed from the truth – as evidenced by the sad state of apostasy in much of modern Methodism. Oh, the pain of rejection and friendship lost!
I’m sure the Apostle Paul was feeling keenly similar pain when he wrote saying:
- “All they which be in Asia be turned away from me” (2 Tim. 1:15).
- “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me” (2 Tim. 4:10).
- “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me … notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me” (2 Tim. 4:16).“I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Phil. 2:20-21).
At a similar time of trial in Wesley’s life he was prompted by deep emotions to write to his followers the following when he felt the truth, which he believed, was in danger of being neglected:
“I find almost all of our preachers in every circuit are done with preaching it. They say they believe it, but never preach it – not once in a quarter! What is to be done? Shall we drop it or make a point of it? They have taken great care not to speak too plain, lest they should give offense! Is it any wonder that God’s work does not prosper more?”
Does history repeat itself? Are we making the same mistakes as those men of Paul’s day and again in Wesley’s day? Is it possible that preachers today would be so foolish, as in the past, to betray that sacred trust (1 Tim. 1:11-12) by being reluctant to preach some important but unpopular Bible truth? Well, after having conducted our evangelistic meetings (Crossroads Crusades) now for 33 years throughout much of the United States and in many and various churches, I am of the opinion that many are, likewise, hesitant and have put the truth “under a bushel” (Mt. 5:15)! Why? I do not know, but it is happening! I want to suggest three areas where I think there is evidence to convict, and if it is not remedied, it will be only a matter of time before denial of the truth and apostasy will occur.
Fundamentalism is a reaction to the Bible-denying modernism and liberalism that invaded the mainline denominations of professing Christianity around the turn of the century. At that time there was a need and a call for all Bible-believing Christians to stand, as a united force, against the invading forces of unbelief. This, in turn, led to much preaching that emphasized the cardinal doctrines such as: the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible; the deity of Christ; the virgin birth; the substitutionary/atoning work of Christ on the Cross; His physical resurrection and personal, bodily return to earth. The clarion call was for ecclesiastical separation from all forms of this apostasy. These godly men of different denominational backgrounds were committed to identifying certain basic doctrines of the Christian faith, and at the same time they refused to be divided over denominational distinctives or personal biases. Much of their preaching and writing was later collated into a twelve-volume set of books called “The Fundamentals” (1910-1915, sixty-four authors). Henceforth, those who have joined in this battle for truth have been called “Fundamentalists.” This book set the minimum standard by which to judge cooperation/fellowship in the work of the gospel and the criteria by which a person could legitimately call himself orthodox.
As time went on, a new philosophy of ministry developed that was less rigid and not so outspoken, preferring rather to remain silent on those issues that tended towards controversy. However, at the same time, they broadened their focus on educational, social and cultural issues. Those who have embraced this new philosophy or method of approaching Christian ministry chose to identify themselves as “Evangelicals” rather than “Fundamentalists.” Thus, while still signatory to the same doctrines as historical Fundamentalism, many Evangelicals (as in Wesley’s day) have opted not to make a point of them and have “taken great care not to speak too plain, lest they should give offense!” Therein lies the danger! To a world that needs answers and direction, many times, Evangelicals are of no more value than an empty bottle without a label.
It now is rather easy for the Evangelical to take the short step (and some have) into Neo-Evangelicalism. Here doctrine becomes almost a non-issue. Their former stand on ecclesiastical separation is repudiated and now they are at liberty to enter into some dialogue and cooperation with the Liberal/Modernist and in some cases with the cultist. The criterion for the dialogue is now on unity at the expense of love for the sound doctrine, Christ and the gospel – and never mind how they define the gospel or how it is received.
The drift away from the truth did not happen overnight or by accident. It started some time ago when men, like the men of Wesley’s day, decided not to make a point of Fundamentalism but decided to drop it. They said in essence:
“Fundamentalism has a wrong attitude and a wrong strategy. The way to defeat modernism is by infiltration. To do that we must abandon the doctrine of separation; develop a friendly attitude toward science; increase our emphases on scholarship; question the subject of Biblical inspiration; reexamine our beliefs concerning the Holy Spirit; shift away from Dispensationalism; have a more definite social responsibility and engage in dialogue with the Liberals.” (“Is Evangelical Theology Changing?” – Christian Life Magazine, March, 1956, pp. 16-19).
Dear Fundamental and Evangelical friends, history repeats itself. Look around and listen! It is not difficult to see that we are rushing into dangerous compromise. It won’t be long before we go full circle, back into the arms of Christ-denying, Bible-rejecting Modernism – right into the arms of the Antichrist. I intend to make a point of historic Fundamentalism. I for one am not going to drop it! I am, by God’s grace, going to “speak the truth in love.”
The thing closest to the heart of God is the reconciliation of the lost to Himself. This is evidenced by His boundless love (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:8), the high price paid for man’s redemption (Eph.1: 7; 1 Pet. 1:1819), and His declaration that He “was not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
In the Old Testament, God had designated the nation of Israel to be “a kingdom of priests” (Rom. 9:4) and, as such, were commissioned to be His “witnesses” (Isa. 43:10-13). Later, the “Seventy” (Lk. 10:1-17) and the “Twelve” (Mt. 28:16-20) were commissioned with soul-winning responsibilities. However, with the passing of time, Israel’s unbelief and disobedience led to their fall from the place of privilege and blessing (Acts 13:46). In their place, God saved and commissioned the Apostle Paul to go to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Rom. 11:12-13), who in turn has commissioned all believers with the “word and ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5: 14-21). All believers should be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16)! Every believer has a soul-winning responsibility. It is true that there are some men, identified as “evangelists,” gifted of God especially for the work of soul winning. The pastor/teacher is also instructed to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5), but the fact remains that all believers have soul-winning obligations and we cannot please God without being compassionately engaged in winning the lost to Christ.
The current state of evangelism within the Christian community is deteriorating. In my opinion, we have once again, wittingly or unwittingly, chosen not to make a point of it. As a result, we now attempt to save the lost through a less direct way than personal or crusade evangelism, the philosophy being that the gospel must be introduced gradually and cautiously though education. This is one of the reasons that little or no emphases/encouragement is given to the gift of “evangelist” (Eph. 4:11), or “doing the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). Many pastors have boldly stated that their work is to “teach the deeper things of God.” They seem to think that the salvation of souls is somehow less important than what they imagine to be a nobler ministry. As much needed as other ministries may be in this world, none of them, no matter how fascinating and inspirational, can equal the importance of leading men out of spiritual death into the glorious life in Christ. Satan has worked overtime to trick believers into being absorbed in good ministries and projects to the neglect of soul winning.
I have the annual report from the district superintendent of a medium-sized fellowship of Fundamental Bible Churches. I believe his report is very typical of what would be reflected in a report of the evangelistic efforts of most Bible-believing churches, including churches in our Grace Movement. I quote, in part, as follows:
“My request to the church pastors, of our regional fellowship, was that they should list any evangelistic efforts whether they be revival, lay-witness missions, or any other means. Ten churches indicated no effort at all and fourteen did not respond in any fashion, indicating in all likelihood that no effort has been put forth. This means twenty-four churches out of sixty-five made no conscious effort to reach the lost during the course of the past year. This does not speak well of a fellowship of churches which emphasizes evangelism as one of its distinctives.”
Like the Apostle Paul, we are debtors. We owe everyone the gospel. Every Christian, from the pastor to the newest layman, is duty bound to make a point of soul winning. For the sake of lost souls and the glory of God, we dare not drop it now!
The dispensationalist does not worship Dispensationalism. Dispensationalism did not die on Calvary’s Cross for sinners. But the dispensationalist does use the instructions of 2 Timothy 2:15 as the “key” to unlock the door of Scripture, without which, much of our understanding of Scripture becomes little more than spiritual “Mulligan Stew.” A failure to “rightly divide the Word of God” does indeed account for much of the growing confusion and the vast variety of denominational divisions and increasing apostasy in the Christian community.
There are many critics of Dispensationalism today. They say, among other things, that:
“Dispensationalism is too rigid; it imposes its theological construction upon the Biblical data, it is insensitive to the Old Testament and that the theological structure of Dispensational Theology is so shaky that if you remove one of its supporting pillars the whole structure collapses.”
All dispensationalists, of course, deny these charges. However, our counter charge cannot be denied. The anti-dispensationalist is biased in his attempts to demolish Dispensationalism. He labors to propagate the thesis that the Body of Christ is the legitimate successor to Israel and their promised blessings. This is, of course, a denial of the literal fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel (i.e., the covenants). The attack by anti-Dispensationalism is very grievous. It robs the student of an understanding and an appreciation of the grace of God as it is being manifested today. They would rob us of the pure delight of knowing what God is doing today and of being in proper adjustment to His plan.
There is no doubt that the growing influence of anti-dispensational sentiment has intimidated and influenced the philosophy and the actions of many dispensationalists. They have gone “undercover” with their dispensational beliefs, having decided, as in Wesley’s day, not to make a point of it, lest they be labeled “different,” ridiculed and rejected. This mentality of accommodation is a disaster, and will cause the number of defections from the truth of the Word of God, rightly divided, to increase.
If I did not have dispensational friends who dared to take the risk of rejection and censured to give me this precious “key,” I would still be preaching an eclectic/mongrel message. I thank God for friends like Finley Hunter (deceased), Missionary and BDTLB-Advisory Board member; Daniel Bultema (deceased), past president of Grace Publications and BDTLB Board member; Joe Mason (deceased), and past president of Prison Mission Association and BDTLB Advisory Board member; Henry Kulp (deceased), Pastor of Altoona Bible Church and BDTLB Board Member; Jim Lowden, advisor, friend, and Missionary Evangelist; and John Rachoy, Missionary to the Navajo Indians, was the first to introduce me to the “Grace Message.” These men never gave up speaking the truth in love and reinforcing it by a godly life, bold witness to the lost, and volumes of dispensational literature! Oh, how I thank God they made a point of it! I call upon those who love truth and the blessings of a balanced ministry and life to join with me in making a point of dispensational truth and to steadfastly resist any and all efforts to drop it!
It is time for Bible believers to awaken to the reality of the spiritual, theological and cultural changes taking place because of the philosophy that says, “If you want to show love for people, don’t rock the boat.” “Let’s just go along in order to get along in the Christian community and world.” We need to respond to these sweeping and increasing numbers of compromises to which Christians fall prey.
May God give us courage to stand with men like John Wesley and say, with boldness of conviction, “We love God! We love God’s Word!” And, “We love people too much to yield to the pressures and intimidation of these new philosophies of compromise.” Because we do, by God’s grace, we will make a point out of Fundamentalism, soul winning and Dispensationalism. We will not drop it, but pledge ourselves to renounce the spirit of accommodation with the world and boldly do battle with doctrinal error. We will love the sinner and pray for revival among God’s People. Let it begin with our Grace Movement! Let it begin with me!
Originally Published on 9/17/2003
Updated and revised 5/15/2014