the importance of having definite convictions about matters of faith
The cults challenge the churches to a more thorough and more effective program of indoctrination. The churches must train their members so that they know what they believe and have deep convictions about these matters. Though, strictly speaking, only the Holy Spirit can implant and sustain these deep convictions, the church nevertheless has a responsibility in this area. Doctrinal instruction must be pursued with vigor. The children and young people of the congregation must be trained in the faith of the fathers in classes for doctrinal instruction. Though this training must be solid and thorough, it must not be merely an intellectual process, but the kind of instruction which will make these doctrines meaningful and vital. We must deepen conviction as well as impart information.
the importance of knowing the Scriptures.
is there not, however, real value in having at our fingertips Scripture texts which support the doctrines we embrace? The rapid growth of movements like the Jehovah’s Witnesses make more thorough Scripture memorization on the part of both pastors and people a highly desirable thing. Young people, too, should be trained not only in the understanding of Christian doctrines, but also in the ability to find and quote Scripture passages on which these doctrines are based.
The superficial and misleading treatment of Scripture found in the cults ought also to make all church members insist that theological seminaries provide thorough training, not only in the doctrines to which Christians are committed, but also in the defense of these doctrines from the Scriptures. Doctrines, in fact, ought to be taught “exegetically”—that is, in such close relationship to Scripture that the student realizes that they are drawn from the Bible, not imposed upon the Bible.
zeal for witnessing
Here, too, the cults point an accusing finger at the churches. Why is it, they say to us, that you have lost that passion for witnessing which was so characteristic of early Christianity? It has often been said that one reason for the rapid spread of Christianity in its early days was that every believer was a witness. How different the situation is today! Charles S. Braden surmises that “probably more people have been won to the Christian faith by the witness of some who hold it than by any one other means.” If this is so—and there is no reason for thinking that it is not so—we are confronted anew today with the urgent necessity of training people to witness for Christ, and of praying that the Holy Spirit may fill us with greater zeal for such witnessing.
effective use of the printed page
the strong sense of urgency
do not we Christians believe that the day of grace in which we now live will not last forever? Is it not true that for each individual the moment of death is the moment when for him the day of grace is over—and may not that moment come any time? How strong is our expectation of the Second Coming of Christ? Braden puts it very strikingly when he says: “One could well believe from much of the preaching he hears that it would be nice if men were to become Christian, but that really there is nothing urgent about it.” If we felt more of a sense of urgency, our message, too, would be more compelling.
the large role they assign to laymen
Are the established churches using their laymen to the best advantage? Or are we missing some real opportunities here? Most of the members of our churches have, of course, no opportunity to obtain seminary training. Are we providing enough opportunities for lay witnessing? Or are many of our laymen members of the “hearing church” only—to say nothing about the “sleeping church”? The cults challenge us to re-examine the role of laymen in our evangelistic and missionary activities.
the sense of dedication
When one encounters a cult, one meets people who are completely committed to a cause—committed in a way which puts many a church member to shame
Do we in the established churches have this kind of dedication to the Kingdom of Christ? One may certainly point to many dedicated people within the churches, but the question cannot be dodged: are all of our people, by and large, possessed by this kind of dedication? One can, of course, always find excuses, but is there any real reason why a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness should be more wholeheartedly committed to his cult than a Christian should be devoted to the glorious Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?
definite techniques for witnessing
We are inclined to preach and talk in glittering generalities. We tell people to do more religious reading, but often fail to give them guidance in what to read or how to read. We tell people to witness, but do not teach them how to witness. We urge people to be more expressive about their faith, but give them little or no guidance as to what they should say.
Here, again, the cults challenge us. They are usually quite definite about what they want people to do and quite specific in their instructions. We might well consider whether in the churches we should not be much more practical than we usually are, and whether we should not take greater pains to tell people how they should pray, study the Bible, and witness to others about Christ.
willing to endure ridicule
Most church members are terribly afraid to be different. We desperately crave social approval. We want to go along with the crowd; we want to be in step. We so easily forget that the great creative figures in the history of the church have always been ready to defy convention. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself thundered against many of the traditions of His day. Paul was willing to be a fool for Christ’s sake. Martin Luther dared to defy the political and religious leaders of his day, saying, “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise—so help me God!” We shall not make much of an impression upon the world if we are as similar to unbelievers as peas in a pod. We can stand something of the spirit of the cultist who dares to be different, despite the pressures of social convention.
the Christian faith has a contribution to make to good health
churches have often failed to emphasize the relation between religion and health
“When science has done all it can, there is still a powerful ministry which religious faith brings to sick folk.”
Pastors should be fully convinced that their prayers and their ministry to the sick are as vitally important in the healing process as is the care of doctors and nurses. Every pastor can testify that he has witnessed amazing answers to prayer in critical illnesses—answers which have baffled medical science. What one Christian doctor used to say is as true today as it ever was: “We only set the bones; God must do the healing.” While being grateful for the ministry of medicine, let the church not neglect the ministry of prayer.
How much more the churches could do with the printed page than they are doing today! What Protestant church can claim that more than 17 million copies of one of its doctrinal books have been printed? What Protestant magazine dares to claim a circulation of more than 3,850,000? Yet these claims are made by Jehovah’s Witnesses for their book, Let God Be True, and for their best-known periodical, The Watchtower.