George E. Darling, Sr.
For the past thirty six years I have tried to preach the Gospel without fear or favor. Many times, I must admit, I was tempted to compromise on some issues that have disturbed the “brotherhood.” God being my witness, I have tried to “stay with the book”. As I look back over these years I am made to wonder just what might have happened had I gone along with the popular groups. I have seen many preachers who said, “I won’t take sides”, or “I’m on the fence in this matter.” This has been especially true in matters that concerned their standing in the “brotherhood” or that might affect their jobs and incomes. They had to keep in mind their popular standing among the “better known preachers” and the community, so they set their sails to catch the popular wind while their “theology” became as flexible as “Silly Putty.”
On Sunday morning they preach to a large audience. It matters not to these preachers that the audience is made up of liquor dealers, libertines or “Black Jack dealers”. He does not care, for these are the ones who have the dough and who wield the influence in the town. If faithful and honest men and women in the congregation call for discipline, they are laughed off and quietly subdued by being told that “There is a difference of opinion in ‘the brotherhood’ concerning sin nowadays and that discipline in the 21st Century church is a thing of the past” (Ain’t that the truth!) Or to bring it up to the present, “It’s a matter of judgment.”
While the “better known” and popular Pussy Footer preacher speaks so sweetly on love, and deals so gently with sin, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in high places moves in and he sits there, straddling the fence, while the church is polluted and corrupted. The Devil moves in, the church blows up, and God’s people finally get their eyes open enough to move out. That is just what the devil wants!
This is the picture of the “popular” church. The Devil laughs on one side of the fence as he steals God’s sheep and the Lord stands on the other side saying, “Cry aloud, and spare not.” The preacher looks to his “Tub of Butter” and his “community popularity” and sits on the fence. The press lauds him, “Man of the Year”—“Best Dressed Man”, etc. The Chamber of Commerce praises him for his freedom from bigotry and his “Broad Views”. He speaks learnedly on the aesthetics of Christianity. He dabbles and babbles in the ethical field; and on occasion, (when no dissenters are present) he touches lightly upon some phrase of the Gospel—with a four foot feather—Never mentions hell—the doctrine of damnation that Jesus preached is out of date and too old fashioned for him. He robs God of His justice and wrath as he speaks at length on God’s mercy, grace and love—and the people respond. Every service when the invitation is extended to “appropriate God’s blessings” (never—oh never—Faith, Repentance, Confession and Baptism) the aisles are full. Sinners confess Christ without having repented. They are baptized in water in a form of mockery and naturally are born dead as far as New Testament Christianity is concerned.
The eldership, in general, in the “popular church” is in hearty agreement with the “popular preacher” and just as long as the church flourishes, the preacher stays on good terms without any friction from the Devil, all is well and good. But that preacher must stay astraddle of the fence on every issue in which there would be any dispute or controversy with any mortal being. He lies awake at night trying to figure out some way to label differences between right and wrong as “non-essential distinctions” and of no vital importance anyway. Preachers of this stripe—(yellow, down the middle of the back) have made this an age of “On the fence religion”.
Now don’t you young preachers try to preach any of this. If you do you will probably get fired—I did, and I was.