The Religion Racket
by Norman H. Wells
Former Pastor, Central Baptist Church, Cincinnati
Now With The Lord
© 2005 James H. Dearmore/Gospelweb.net

The Late Dr. Norman H. Wells

[GospelWeb.net Globe]

Printer Friendly Page.

Chapter 15

Baptized Bones
(Please read Ezekiel 37:1-10)

The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel was assigned a task which was most unusual. God called upon him to preach to a congregation of dead, dry bones. Most preachers have had similar experiences of preaching to this type of congregation. Ezekiel's experience, however, was unique. As he preached to this congregation of dead, dry bones, "the bones came together, bone to his bone." Nearly everyone has heard the song that commemorates this event. After these "bones came together" it is said that "the sinews and flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them." Ezekiel kept on preaching. Finally it is said, "the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army." This was a real service.

Somehow, today's preachers don't seem to have the results of Ezekiel. Most of them start out the same way with a congregation of dead, dry bones. Some even get a little movement among the bones and they might even "come together, bone to his bone" until they begin to look like something. Today's religion is content to stop about here and this is about as far as the average preacher ever gets; the flesh and life never seem to come. Our congregations are falling short of becoming exceedingly great armies.

The result of all this is that the modern preacher and church is spending most of its time arranging dead, dry bones to look like an exceedingly great army surging with life. This is a little difficult and frustrating, to say the least, and it does present some problems.

Anyone knows that dead, dry bones can't hear, yet a pastor must keep preaching and pretending someone is listening. Sunday after Sunday he delivers sermons no one seems to hear ... dead, dry bones.

Dead, dry bones cannot feel, they have no sensitivity to the appeals that might be made. Today's preacher has to continually present truths for which his congregation has no appetite. The average pastor comes before his congregation with a challenging message of inspiration. He reaches the climax of enthusiasm and looks to his congregation, expecting them to be stimulated into heroic action and sacrifice. This is what he looks for but what he sees is dead, dry bones. The Scripture says, "And, lo, they were very dry."

The pretense that a congregation of dead, dry bones is really an exceedingly great army is a little difficult to maintain. It requires a lot of doing and a pastor really has to work at it diligently. Just about the time he gets one bundle of bones stacked up so they look pretty good, he turns around and finds that the ones he was working on the day before have fallen down and he has to run and do a repair job. His days are consumed running from one bundle of bones to another trying to keep the heads on, the arms in place, and the feet on the right end.

There is possibly no place where people are as sensitive and get their feelings hurt as easily as, in a church congregation. A large part of a pastor's time is consumed running from one church member to another trying to soothe people whose "feelings have been hurt." Someone has made a remark they didn't like, or possibly passed them by without saying, "Hello." Oh, the tragedy of it all! The pastor has to get out the oil can in an effort to get the dead, dry bones working smoothly and use a little genial glue to stick the bones back together. He generally has to hurry the job because there is always someone else who is about to come unglued and is crying for attention.

The Bible speaks of those church members, "who loveth to have the preeminence.'' These folks must have a constant supply of recognition and praise or they'll just throw bones all over the place. Let a pastor forget to publicly praise one of these for something they do and it will take him two weeks to get the bones together again.

There are very few things as pathetic to watch as a pastor who must spend most of his time out calling in the homes of his delinquent church members, begging them to come to church on Sunday so he can stack their dead, dry bones in a church pew and pretend they are part of a victorious, conquering army.

With all the emphasis that is given to "numbers" today, the average church is so consumed with counting how many bones are present there is no time to be concerned about the fact the bones are dead and dry.

These dead, dry bone congregations expect the pastor to be present at every social affair, afternoon tea, committee meeting, homecoming, etc. If he doesn't show up, he'll have a pile of bones that will be almost impossible to ever sort out and assemble.

The pastor finds it necessary to run a kind of complaint department. A great deal of time must be spent listening to all the gripes and complaints of the dead, dry bones. If he doesn't come up with an acceptable solution these folks will fall apart right before his eyes. This is a horrible sight! The preacher generally feels he must keep his ears tuned to pick up all the gossip. There are few things that will scatter bones like a good wind of gossip sweeping through a congregation. A preacher feels sometimes that half of his time is given in an effort to stop gossip before it starts and the other half is spent in trying to explain it away after it starts.

Another duty of the pastor is to stand guard like a vicious dog to keep other pastors from stealing his bones.

One of the really discouraging things a pastor faces is to bring in a fine, unchurched family whose spiritual interest has been kindled and then watch their expression as they look around on a congregation of dead, dry bones. Might as well try to convince them they should take up residence in the middle of a deserted graveyard. There is nothing like a bone battle! Let a congregation of dead, dry bones choose up sides and start a real church fight and it is a sight to behold! The young pastor is usually completely unnerved at his first encounter with this kind of thing. Crushed and scattered bones are a ghastly sight. To be able to glue them back together is a rare skill.

Another difficulty that always seems to be present in these congregations of dead, dry bones is missing parts. Someone always seems to be showing up with some bones missing. One of the most common of these missing bones is the backbone. When the backbone is missing the individual can never stand courageous and tall in an exceedingly great army but rather collapses into a puny pile of bones.

There are some who always seem to be missing the top part of their skull. This leaves them utterly devoid of any ability to think or understand.

Those who continually mislay the part of the head where the ears fit can never be expected to hear ... no matter how often or how loudly it might be said.

Leaving the mouth part home eliminates the need for singing, praying, teaching, etc.

Misplaced feet eliminate the necessity of marching in service.

A great number find they have forgotten their hands when it comes to reaching out to drop something in the offering plate.

Mixed up bones can be a real problem. Sometimes it will. be found that the same individual might have on a Baptist head, a Presbyterian body, Catholic arms, Methodist legs, etc. This is usually difficult to straighten out and if one is not careful this type can wind up scattered all over town. Another difficulty is that sometimes these different bones get out of proportion to the rest of the body in size. The most common of these is a mouth that is too big and ears that are too small. Always talking and never listening.

Some have ears that are too big and cause them to hear every whisper of gossip in a ten-mile radius. Those who aren't missing the top part of their skull sometimes find they have one that is too small. Maybe we need to look back to Ezekiel. In faith he looked to God for the spiritual work that clothed the dead, dry bones in flesh and made them live. They stood up an exceedingly great army. We still have the same God. Let's turn from pretense and look for the real thing. Let's get some life in the old bones.

If you have comments about these pages of Bro. Norman Wells works, you may send them through the Webmaster: E-Mail , Webmaster, or send directly to David Wells, as you may wish!