Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, NC, a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. His books are available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com
Early this morning, while perusing social media, I noticed a post from Franklin Graham linking to a Christian Post column on the clergy. It caught my attention enough to follow the links, and what I found was bad, but sadly, not shocking in the least. It was written by Ian M. Giatti, and the title of the column was “Over a third of senior pastors believe ‘good people’ can earn their way to Heaven: survey.” It was a survey of more than 1000 pastors who label themselves as Christians across several segments of churches and/or denominations and was conducted by the Cultural Research Center.
As I read the column, these terrible numbers and positions emerged. One-third or more of senior pastors believe the Holy Spirit is not a person but rather “a symbol of God’s power.” Others said that moral truth is subjective; sexual relations between two unmarried people who love each other is “morally acceptable,” and biblical teaching on abortion is “ambiguous.” Another thirty-nine percent of Evangelical pastors surveyed said there is no absolute moral truth and that “each individual must determine their own truth.” Thirty-seven percent said having faith, in general, is more important than what – or more specifically, Whom – one has faith in.
Most telling of all is the fact that thirty percent of Evangelical pastors do not believe that their salvation is based on having confessed their sins and accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Commenting on all of this, George Barna, CRCs director of research, said, “While studying the spiritual behavioral patterns of pastors, it became evident that a large share of them do not have a regular spiritual routine. There was a correlation between possessing biblical beliefs and a consistent regimen of Bible reading, prayer, worship and confession.”
The survey is good, and I have no reason to doubt its accuracy. Barna’s conclusion, though, seems very much to miss the mark. An understanding of both Scripture and history tells us that the more likely problem is not that the misbelieving clergy are not spending enough time reading the Bible and praying, but that said clergy have never been born again to begin with.
This is not a new phenomenon. In 1 Kings 22, four hundred of the clergy spoke “in the name of the Lord,” led by a rather flamboyant prophet named Zedekiah. And yet they were all dead wrong because they did not even know the Lord. There was exactly one lone voice among the clergy, Micaiah, who told them the truth, even though no one wanted to hear it. In Jeremiah 37, Jeremiah was imprisoned for saying the exact opposite of what the vast majority of all of the other prophets were saying. And yet, when he was imprisoned, there was no word from the Lord. The king had to sneak him out of prison to find out what God was saying because He was not actually saying anything to the lost clergy around him. In John 3, Nicodemus, one of the spiritual leaders of the nation, came to see Jesus in the middle of the night. He was good, he was polite, he was religious, he was a member in good standing of the clergy – and he was lost. Jesus told him so to his face.
In 1740, Gilbert Tennent preached a message titled “On the Dangers of an Unconverted Ministry.” That sermon helped to spark The Great Awakening in the Colonies. He recognized that many ministers had never themselves been born again and spoke that truth without fear or favor.
To say that many modern clergy are lost, as in the days of Micaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Gilbert Tennent, should not be a shocking statement. Since the Bible very clearly defines salvation as being only through Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:10-12), by grace through faith apart from any works on our part (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:20; Titus 3:10), an actual event of being born again, converted, (John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 5:17), and wholly dependent on actually believing who Jesus is and what He said of Himself (John 5:24, Romans 10:9-10), anyone who denies these things is, by definition, unregenerate.
To put it in really basic terms, a lot of preachers need to get saved.
That said, there always have been and always will be a lot of lost clergy. The devil never has been interested in stamping out religion; he wants to corner the market on it. So the bigger issue is not finding some way to deal with all of the lost clergy but driving home the message to any actual saved people that they do not need to be a part of any church in which that is the case. During the Tribulation Period, God will still be warning His people of this, telling those who are dabbling in the devil’s one-world church to “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4).
I have seen a lot of truly saved people grow up and grow old in churches that had saved clergy when they were kids yet changed over to lost clergy by the time they were parents and grandparents. Those are the people whose attention I really want to grab here. If that is your case and cannot be changed, you need to leave. If you have one of those one-third of senior pastors who believe that ‘good people’ can earn their way to Heaven in spite of Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:10, Romans 3:20, and Ephesians 2:8-9, you need to leave. If you have one of those one-third or more of pastors who do not understand or acknowledge even the basics of Biblical morality, you need to leave. You do not need to continue to support heresy with your presence and with your finances. Why in the world would anyone want to sit and be preached to by a person who does not even believe the book that he is preaching anyway? Do not let someone in the graveyard of the church hold you there. Dig them up and bring them with you, if you must, but leave.
You may not be able to fix a lost clergy problem, but you certainly do not need to help prop it up.
Pastor Wagner can be contacted by email at email@example.com, and his books are available by clicking the “Store” link above.
Feature picture and photo by Pastor Bo Wagner