Why Are They Leaving the Churches?
“Why are the old churches with fine buildings losing prospective members to the ‘less respectable’ sects?” asks Presbyterian Life of January 20, 1951. The writer, Alton Trueblood, goes on to say: “If tradition and wealth and an early start make any difference [the Catholics], the Presbyterians and Episcopalians should be doing very well, while those who worship at the other end of the street should be relatively less successful. But the fact is reverse.” He further observes:
“If we care about the Christian enterprise we must deal realistically with the fact that, in this particular comparison, the Christian organization enjoying the least social standing, having the shortest history, occupying the least fashionable district, and guided by the least trained ministry is going ahead of the others, not only in numbers, but also in zeal, in commitment, and in proportionate giving. This ought to bother us mightily.” It should do more. Should it not call for an examination to see whether or not such so-called “fashionable” churches hold in common “the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones”? (Jude 3, NW) Should it not spur us to inquire whether there is any comparison between the early Christian church and this world’s “respectable” religions?
THE EARLY CHURCH
Christianity was not born on a “respectable” corner in a magnificent cathedral amid softly playing organ music, but in a manger. Its seed did not take root in the hearts of the high, mighty, and so-called “reputable” religions of the day, but Christianity found a home in the hearts of the poor, despised, and lowly—men called “unlearned and ignorant” and of no reputation. (Acts 4:13) They were preachers, all of them. None were paid. “You received free, give free,” is what they were taught. (Matt. 10:8, NW) Meetings were held in varied surroundings, indoors and outdoors. Their sermons were spontaneous, from the heart. So were their prayers. Each sermon was packed with truth and instruction regarding Christian conduct and ministry.—2 Tim. 4:3-5.
Christians especially were not to seek either wealth or fame, and were to show no preference to the possessors of such. (1 Tim. 6:9, 10; Jas. 2:1-4) They had neither political power nor intellectual prestige. They had the spirit of the Lord, which they would not sell or trade for all the fame and fortune in the world. They were not considered “reputable” in the eyes of the Stoics or Platonists, nor in the eyes of the “fashionable” Jewish religions of the day, the scribes, the Pharisees, or the Sadducees. Christianity, even though unpopular, was alive and progressive. It needed no revivals then, needs none now!
PRESENT SO-CALLED “CHRISTIAN” CHURCHES
Two things are certain. First, the so-called “reputable” and “Christian” churches of today do not match the pattern laid down by the early Christian church, but quite perfectly fit the pattern set by those “reputable” societies that vanished into oblivion. And, second, there is a famine for proper Bible instruction within these religious institutions. Millions of persons attend church regularly every Sunday and listen to their pastors, but after a ten-or fifteen-minute sermon and the religious ceremonies for the day the people leave with no good news to preach to the world. They have heard about a popular book, or about the political situation existing in the world, or perhaps a résumé of the economic crisis. Maybe the Bible was mentioned or a Scripture text was used, but the pastor soon wandered off into some easy-to-listen-to philosophy. But where is the energizing message to spur the congregation to Christian activity? Where is the one hope? Where is the accurate knowledge of God’s Word? Of God? Of his Son? Where is the spiritual food to aid the congregation to grow to full maturity? Where is their interest in the kingdom that Jesus taught all Christians to pray for? Where is the energetic Christian organization built on love? It is quite obvious all this is sorely lacking.
S. Parkes Cadman, a minister at one church for thirty-five years, at the close of his ministry had this to say: “My church is slipping, and my men won’t do anything about it. Do you know what is wrong with my church? My people like me, but they don’t love God.”a After thirty-five years the verdict ran, “They don’t love God!”
Dr. Frederick K. Stamm, who served as a clergyman since 1910, and for some time headed the country’s largest Congregational Church, had this to say of the spiritual quality of one of the so-called “fashionable” and “respectable” churches where he served for many years:
“I looked around for people with a dream, and found none. Aside from the president of the Board, who died two months later, I found no man of spiritual stature who I felt would help to ‘meet the mortal need’ of that community . . . If it ever had a dream it had faded into oblivion. Its face was toward the past, not toward the future. I had expected to find men of tall spiritual stature. Instead I found pygmies, men who had never grown out of their infantilisms. . . . It was the finest money-making institution I have ever seen that called itself a church. It was said in the board meeting, ‘What we need in this church is someone who can leave us more money for our endowment.’”b
If these so-called “Christian” churches were being taught the Word of God and the truths presented in the Bible this morbid condition would not be present. All the members of the congregation would be fine specimens of tall spiritual stature filled with love for God and their neighbor. They would not be spiritual “midgets” still dependent on the milk of God’s Word, and which milk is even denied them. Each would be a trained minister; for is not that the reason that teachers were given “with a view to the training of the holy ones for ministerial work”? Yes. To engage in the pure worship of God means one must be a preacher, a minister, a servant of the Most High God, Jehovah. (Jas. 1:22-25, NW) Christendom has miserably failed in this respect. Her false religious shepherds have fed themselves but not the sheep. Therefore, “Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the sheep; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; and I will deliver my sheep from their mouth, that they may not be food for them.”—Ezek. 34:10, AS.
SOWING ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT
In contrast with the indifferent way taken by these “respectable” religions of Christendom, Jehovah’s witnesses diligently work to make everyone who shows interest in the truth a competent minister of God’s kingdom. They try to bring all immature ones to a mature knowledge of God’s Word. They work in unity, manifesting the spirit of God. They have “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father”, and all the Lord’s people are associated in one visible organization built up in love. This is the answer to the zeal and the unusual growth of the organization of Jehovah’s witnesses. Jehovah’s witnesses hope in the kingdom of God and proclaim it to the ends of the earth as a witness to all nations. Not only are they interested in doing this themselves, but they have interest in training others for ministerial work. They know this means the salvation of others.—1 Tim. 4:16.
In their work they copy Christ and the apostles very closely. This is admitted in religious circles. William Charles Walzer, whose article on “The Early Church” appeared in the July 1951 issue of Adult Student, said:
“The apostles preached with conviction and enthusiasm. An apostle’s purpose was not primarily to stimulate thinking but to convince his fellow Jews that the crucified Lord was truly the long-awaited Messiah and to win them to the Christian fellowship. The preaching of the apostles was simple, intimate, and spontaneous. On the spur of the moment Peter used the healing of the lame man as the springboard for an intimate address to the bystanders. (Acts 3:12-26) Apostolic preaching was Scriptural. . . . In this respect cultists like Jehovah’s witnesses more nearly resemble the early Christians than do members of the more-regular denominations.”
On this same point Alton Trueblood, in the article in Presbyterian Life, observes:
“In many localities the initiative has moved away from the places marked by cushioned pews, fine organs, and professional singers, to the poor little store-front churches. Small but vigorous bands of Jehovah’s witnesses meet in their modest quarters called Kingdom Halls, and Alcoholics Anonymous meet wherever they can; but the lack of impressive surroundings seems to hinder them not at all. Neither are they hindered by the lack of trained leaders. Apparently the power of Christian society cannot be measured by the number of its members who are listed in Who’s Who.
“There can be no doubt that these vigorous and unrespectable sects which now flourish so mightily in our land are, in many respects, far closer to original Christianity than are those of us who represent the conventional movements of Christendom. We call ours the older tradition, but in this we may be inaccurate. Perhaps they represent what is truly old in the Christian witness. The early Christians were undoubtedly despised and they frequently met at the wrong end of the street.”
This is all so very true. Is this not why not only prospective church members but also members of long standing, monks, Catholic priests, nuns, and Protestant clergymen are coming forth completely abandoning their old traditional organizations and are joining in the proclamation of “this good news of the kingdom” with Jehovah’s witnesses?—Matt. 24:14, NW.
The people of good will are fleeing the famine-stricken churches of Christendom. They can no longer be held in those false religious prison houses by soft pews, professional singers, organ music, or by a claim of respectability. The people are spiritually starved. They are hungry. They want to be fed. They do not want to die a death of slow starvation. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord Jehovah, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Jehovah.” (Amos 8:11, AS) So they are coming forth! They are coming “to the mountain of Jehovah” to be fed.—Mic. 4:1, 2, AS; Isa. 58:11; 65:13-16.
“We may as well face the fact,” said Mr. Trueblood, “that in so far as our religion is represented exclusively or even chiefly by the attendance of well-dressed, upper-middle-class people at an impressive church for one hour on Sunday morning, we are already in decay. In so far as this is a conventionalized ceremony, disassociated from the common life which most people now live, it will eventually lose the vitality it still has.” The honest truth is that there is no life left in Christendom’s churches. She is passé. What is the only hope for people of good will? “Get out of her,” God answers, “if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues. For her sins have massed together clear up to heaven, and God has called her acts of injustice to mind.”—Rev. 18:4, 5, NW.
Now is the time for the honest-hearted persons to respond to Jehovah’s command to “get out of her” before he completely destroys her at the battle of Armageddon. Jehovah God is now inviting all peoples of all nations to dine at his table and live. “Ho, every one that thirsteth,” says he, “come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live.”—Isa. 55:1-3, AS.
a If This Be Religion, by F. K. Stamm.
b If This Be Religion, by F. K. Stamm.