reflections on an evangelical service

I am in my home town, assisting my parents in a move out to the coast so that our family can more directly care for them in their old age. Today I went to church with my dad. It was in this church that I grew up and had my first preaching opportunities. It is a church almost 100 years old. It has had a significant impact on many lives during its existence, including at least 5 men in the ministry from its young people just in my generation.

The style of service and many doctrinal issues make this a church I could no longer have close fellowship with, even if the Lord had brought me back to my home province for my ministry. I rarely attend here, not usually visiting my parents over a Sunday. In the last 27 years, I have probably been in the church for one of its services less than 5 times.

The pastor is a bit older than I, but not much. We were acquainted when I was a teen and he was in college. Our church was affiliated with a college where many of the students worked in summer camps and denomination-wide youth activities. The pastor was one of those who was involved in ministry to me as a teen.

Today a guest speaker was in town, another man whom I knew from my teen years. He, too, was a part of those college kids who were involved in that province-wide youth ministry. Back in those days, this fellow was a leader among us, one of the spiritual young men whom I quite admired in our group. Today he is a missionary in the Pacific Isles, having spend many years in Guam, now heading to Yap. He preached a fine expository message on the Rich Man and Lazarus. He called it “A Prayer from Hell”. It really was a good message.

The preliminaries involved the usual, the offering and announcements and the singing. The singing was of the more contemporary style – it wasn’t absolutely horrible, but certainly not my style of church music. The songs were projected on an overhead (nothing wrong with that) and we moved from one song to another, most of which I didn’t know. I didn’t sing along – I am not a great singer and without any music, I am totally lost. The music helps a bit (some would say that it makes no difference if they could hear me sing!). At least I know that some notes are meant to be sung longer than others and I am supposed to go up here and down there. Anyway, the music wasn’t overly offensive, but it just wasn’t my style.

During the announcements, a young lady got up to give them. There wasn’t a lot wrong with that, I guess, until she mentioned going off to the college for a week in January for her “preaching course.” My old church has been for women preachers since it’s beginning. Not a thing I can agree with, but not a thing to make waves over as a visitor.

And one announcement in particular made it crystal clear why all these little differences mentioned so far define an entirely different kind of ministry from my own and one I could no longer have any fellowship (i.e., partnership and monetary involvement). The announcement was about an upcoming multi-church Christmas service to be held one of the evenings in December. It will be held at the local Roman Catholic church.

This is my problem with evangelicalism in general. This is where its ecumenism and cooperation tend to always lead. They get to the point where they are willing to name false professors as fellow Christians.

  • Is it the preaching that is the problem? Not always. Today’s preaching was fine.
  • Is it the music that is the problem? Not completely. Today’s music, though not my style, wasn’t totally unacceptable.
  • Is it the egalitarian errors? No, but that is a serious error. My home church does allow women to preach. That isn’t acceptable, and not just to me, but to the Lord as well (1 Tim 2.12).

What it comes down to is this: a general weakness in doctrine and practice leads to some kind of acceptance of non Christians as if they are Christians. This is the great evangelical error and it is the direction their many weaknesses still lead.

It is true that some of the more conservative evangelicals don’t go quite so far as to hold joint services with Roman Catholics, but they are not far removed from taking that step. The only way we can see any rapprochement between Fundamentalists and Conservative Evangelicals is if one or the other changes in their attitude towards the compromising evangelicals.



  1. Christian Markle says:

    Interesting in light of the recent revelation of the signatories to the Manhattan Declaration

    Albert Mohler explains why, despite the Catholic and Orthodox elements, he too signed on. –

    • Yes, I was thinking of the Manhattan Declaration when I posted that.

      It is sad to learn that Mohler has signed, but it only further demonstrates the danger of any cozying up to the so-called Conservative Evangelicals. Their philosophy is geared towards tolerating this inclusivism at least, or indeed, as Mohler has done, involving themselves in it.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. But to be fair Don, there are a number of CE’s who have come out publicly against the MD: John MacArthur, Doug Wilson, Alistair Begg, and James White to name a few.

    • This is true, but the operative question for them is now this: what do they do about Al Mohler, et al? If you have been following Dave Doran’s series on separation, this is exactly the right question to ask, it is the question Dave asks, and it is the question that distinguishes Fundamentalists from Conservative Evangelicals. Fundamentalists answer this question one way, Conservative Evangelicals answer it another way. I have been planning a more lengthy post on this very point, but have not been on the Internet for a couple of days. (Not due to Thanksgiving, we had that a month and more ago.)

      I think Dave has made some missteps in his series, but in the main, I am in complete agreement with his understanding of the theology of separation and separatism. I want to write about that also.

      In any case, the Manhattan Declaration is yet another betrayal of the gospel and the usual suspects are all agog.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3