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]

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Chapter 5

Crusade In Complacency

It is an obvious fact that the high ideals, lofty goals, and high sounding phrases of religion do not find much expression in life. What we say and what we are seem to be entirely two different things. Our holy crusades are cloaked in contented complacency. The eternal challenge is smothered in the sea of self-satisfaction and buried under the boredom of a lack of interest. The activities of our churches could be described as busy boredom. We are drowsy and yawning at the presentation of truths for which men have gladly died. The sham and hypocrisy of modern religion is brought into glaring light when we compare what we are with what we sing. Congregational singing is a very important part of the worship services of most churches. Generally these songs are old familiar hymns that the congregation can sing without too much thought or effort. There is a well-known hymn that is sung by nearly all religions. The average congregation in the average church on an average Sunday morning will be asked to turn in their hymn books to page 46 and stand to sing, "Onward Christian Soldiers." Let's listen as they lift their voices and sing. "Onward Christian Soldiers."

"Onward"..... this congregation is wandering aimlessly through another dull, humdrum of a service. The only real goal they have in sight is to get the service over so they can go do something they really enjoy. They look at the clock, count the minutes, and sing. . . "Onward." "Christian soldiers!" If there ever was a group that could win a prize for being the least like soldiers it would have to be the average congregation in the average church on an average Sunday morning. If our country's safety depended on soldiers such as these we would surely be in dire circumstances. The congregation sings on.

"Marching as to war."

When this average congregation in the average church on the average Sunday morning sings this phrase they must surely mean civil war ... the only fighting they ever do is among themselves. They are not about to take on an outside enemy. They would rather get along with the real enemy and concentrate on killing off each other. "With the cross of Jesus, going on before."

The emphasis here surely must be on the phrase, "going on before." Our average congregation has lagged so far behind that the cross of Jesus has gone on out of sight.

"Christ the royal Master, Leads against the foe."

The instructions and commands of Christ are clearly laid down and spelled out. They are crisp and clear but no one seems to pay any attention. This average congregation is calling Christ Master but refusing to submit to Him; they call Him Leader and then refuse to follow.

"Forward into battle, See, His banners go!"

The young pastor learns quickly that it is a near disaster to try to lead his congregation to follow Christ into battle. The last thing they want is anything that looks like controversy or conflict and the zealous young pastor who goes "forward into battle" is likely to find that he is out there all by himself.

"At the sign of triumph Satan's host doth flee."

Now don't you know that Satan is really trembling at the onslaught of our average sleepy congregation? They must really throw a scare into him. About the only thing he checks out is to make sure they do not pick up the weapons they do have ... but aren't using. As long as they just shadow box one hour a week he doesn't worry.

"On then, Christian soldiers, On to victory."

The average church goer thinks he has won a victory when he struggles out of bed on a Sunday morning, drives to church in his late model car, sits down on a cushioned pew in an air conditioned auditorium and sings, "Onward Christian Soldiers." He thinks of himself as a martyr if the service lasts longer than an hour. "Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise."

If hell is shaking because of this kind of service it would probably fall apart if an ant stomped by! "Brothers, lift your voices, Loud your anthems raise." Lift it up now. Everybody sing. Loud singing is the greatest amount of spiritual energy that some church goers expend.

"Like a mighty army, Moves the church of God." Think of a mighty army. Now, think of the average congregation of reluctant church goers. See any resemblance? The only time they look like a mighty army is when they are charging the church parking lots for a quick exit.

"Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod." The saints of old trod paths that led to being beaten, stoned, and persecuted. Their path was one of danger, peril, and sometimes death. Our path is a carpeted aisle down the middle of a fine church.

"We are not divided: All one body we. One in hope and doctrine, One in charity." Hundreds of warring denominations with contradicting creeds and diverse doctrines have the nerve to sing, "We are not divided." This has to be the height of hypocrisy.

"Onward, then, ye people. Join our happy throng."

A congregation of people come to church as though they were taking bad medicine ... because they think they must. A lot of them are there under protest. The church continually must beg and plead to get them to attend. They sit in church uncomfortable and miserable in spiritual surroundings. This is the group that turns to the world and sings, "Join our happy throng." The world listens and generally responds with, "You've got to be kidding!" And surely we must be!

A look at the words of most of the songs that religious people sing reveals a remarkable contrast. Phrases taken from the songs in a standard hymn book used by thousands of congregations across the land emphasize this difference in what we sing and what we are.

A gentleman arrives at church late. The only reason that he is there is because his wife pestered and badgered him till he finally arose and got ready to attend church. Even then he started to back out but his children looked at him like he was Judas Iscariot. He hated having to dress up and would much rather have stayed in bed. He growls and snaps at his family all the way to church. Reluctantly he slips into a church pew, picks up the hymnal and joins in singing: "Serve the Lord with gladness."

A church can be split into warring cliques and parties that are engaged in a big church fight but they'll all stand and sing: "Blest be the tie that binds, Our hearts in Christian love."

The only time the average church goer ever talks of his religion is at church. It embarrasses him for the subject to come up any other place. He sings: "I love to tell the story of Jesus and his glory."

A fellow slips a dime into the collection plate and then sings: "Oh, how I love Jesus."

People who never prayed more than three minutes at one time in their lives will stand and sing: "Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer."

The average church constantly has to seek people to sing in the choir. Most people who could won't respond to the request yet will join the congregation in singing: "0 for a thousand tongues to sing."

Somehow it just seems a little out of place when the average congregation of proud, sophisticated, cosmopolitan, welldressed, smug church goers stand to sing: "To the old rugged cross, I will ever be true, Its shame and reproach gladly bear."

Business meetings of a church can be a real battle. Such a meeting could be opened by singing: "The fight is on, 0 Christian soldier."

The same meeting could be closed by singing: "When the battle's over, we shall wear a crown."

A congregation can be full of people who have refused to take an active part in church work. They won't teach, they won't hold office, they won't serve in any capacity, but they will all stand and sing loudly: "To the work, to the work, we are servants of God."

A woman sits in a congregation seething over a remark someone has made and is carefully plotting her revenge as she sings: "Make me a channel of blessing today."

A group which meets and bewails the fact that their Pastor is outdated and never deals with current, up-to-date subjects will stand and sing: "Tell me the old, old, story."

This is shallow pretense. To sing songs we obviously do not mean conveys the idea of unreality to all who care to observe. Let's mean what we sing ... or stop singing.

Then there are the soloists ... yes, there are always the soloists. Generally these fall into two groups. First, there is always the lady who thinks she can sing ... and can't. The reason she thinks she can sing is because church goers have been lying to her. Anywhere else people would walk out or tell her to shut up but in church we are not as honest as all that ... we're too religious. So week after week this singer keeps up this massacre of music. Everyone smiles and brags on her until she goes through life convinced she can sing.

Secondly, there are the frustrated opera singers. They are thoroughly convinced that if they had been discovered they would have achieved greatness in the music field. They find songs that they feel give full exposure of their voice and continually blast it out into the reluctant ears of a captive church audience which really prefers a little rock and roll.

Most churches are regularly favored with "specials" by duets, trios, and quartets. These singing groups are usually composed of people who are faithful church workers and are of real value to the church. If their singing group is any good, they will get invitations for "guest appearances" in other churches. This finally necessitates the group's dropping all their church work in order to be available whenever an invitation to sing is given. Too many times these "gypsy singers" become cold professionals who have lost their real value.

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