At the beginning of another year we reflect upon our experiences of the past year, thank God and give praises to Him for the blessings bestowed upon us. In the words of David: "Praise ye the Lord: for it is good to sing praises unto God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely." (Psa. 147:1) "Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!" (Psa. 107:31)
During the year past many have endured much sorrow and heartache due to the flooding, tornadoes, earthquakes and riots, with armed conflict and much bloodshed in many countries. We "weep with them that weep" with heartfelt sympathy for those in the stricken areas, and especially do we sympathize with those who have lost their loved ones and homes. It has been a rugged and hazardous time for all who have endured these disasters. It has brought out the best in many people who have gone to help the needy in these areas. Sad to say, it has brought out the worst in some people, leading to rioting and looting. God beholds the good and the evil. "Verily there is a reward for the righteous." (Psa. 58:11)
Crime has escalated the world over with murder, rape, thievery, bank robberies, etc.Law enforcement officers are doing their best to protect us, with some losing their lives in pursuit of criminals. Our prisons are already overloaded with criminals that are caught. Drive-by shootings by those who have no regard for life, makes no one feel safe in their homes, their cars, or in the streets.
The brighter side is for us to look forward to the Kingdom when our Lord will bring peace and safety to the people (Acts 17:31). Man cannot bring about peace and safety, but our Lord can and will. He taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." (Matt. 6:10) Our prayers are not in vain, for "He is faithful that promised." (Heb. 10:23)
There are so many religious systems of error in this "evil day." (Eph. 6:13) We are living in the day when people are not able to "endure sound doctrine." (2 Tim. 4:3) In Luke 18:8 the Lord indicated that the faith (the Truth) will be scarce in our day. He also promises that "Heaven and earth shall pass away [the present ruling power], but my words shall not pass away." (Matt. 24:35) So we know that His Word abides with some.
"For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come." (Hab. 2: 3) So "we hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." (Lam. 3:26) "For then will I turn to the people a pure language [unadulterated Truth, which all will understand], that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent." (Zeph. 3:9) All of us that believe in God's promises have good tidings of great joy, and it is great joy to those who have an "ear to hear." The whole world in the Kingdom will be recipients of the "good tidings of great joy" (Luke 2:10) and of "peace, good will toward men." (v. 14) In that Kingdom "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters that cover the sea." (Isa. 11:9) "Yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." (Isa. 26:9)
"ITALY'S 'VELVET REVOLUTION' IS TURNING UGLY: Ever since a two-bit political hack in Milan was caught trying to flush $4,400 in bribe money down his toilet 18 months ago, Italians have been loudly cheering the country's sweeping anticorruption campaign. Italy's 'velvet revolution' seemed to promise a smooth transition from an entrenched and corrupt system to a clean, transparent democracy.
"But the euphoria is turning to confusion and trauma. Many Italians took the suicides of two of their most important business figures in late July to mean the process may be out of control and becoming ugly. First came the shocking death of 67-year-old Gabriele Cagliari, former chairman of the huge, state-owned energy combine ENI. He was found in his jail cell with a plastic bag over his head on July 20. Then, 72 hours later, Raul Gardini, 60, Italy's top financial wizard of the 1980s, blew his brains out in his 18th century mansion in Milan.
"The growing sense of unease was heightened by the three car bombs that rocked Rome and Milan on July 28, killing five people and badly damaging deeply prized historic monuments. While it is unclear who was responsible for these explosions and for bombings earlier this year, they are seen as a violent protest against the investigations. Throughout Europe, they are also viewed as warning signals that Italy could return to the dark days of terrorism of the 1970s.
"'Bribesville.' Italians are now wondering out loud whether the country can take much more of this national psychodrama. But the agony is likely to continue many more months - if not years - as the complex political and economic upheaval triggered by the investigations rumbles ahead.
"Prosecutors continue to unearth evidence of outrageous corruption... Similar revelations have already destroyed the careers of hundreds of leading politicians and businessmen and brought about the sharp decline of the Socialists and Christian Democrats who have governed Italy since 1946. But new political structures and leaders have not yet appeared to fill the vacuum. In fact, parliamentarians, 20% of whom are under investigation, are using their power to block serious reform.
"Tax Revolt. New elections are likely to be held by year end, but they will not necessarily provide solutions ... The League's recent calls for an anti-Rome tax revolt are adding to the central government's woes. Property-tax increases of as much as 500% this year are-stoking Boosi’s appeal even if many Italians find the League’s chief idealogue, Gianfranco Miglio, recently sneered at the Italian elite.
"The rest of Europe is watching with trepidation as the Italian situation unravels. One witticism often heard in European political circles is that Yugoslavia is the plague outside the borders - while Italy is the cancer within. An exaggeration, perhaps, but finding a cure is going to be long and difficult."
(By John Rossant in Rome - Business Week, August 9, 1993)
Not only Europe is watching how the Italian situation unravels, some of us in the United States are watching the Italian situation, especially Bible Students.
"GERMANY IS ON A ROLL - DOWNHILL: For months, the German government has been assuring citizens that the recession gripping the nation was ending. But the confident talk has stopped. In late October, Germans were buffeted by a string of frightening reports of mounting job layoffs, falling output, and declining consumer spending. That forced a chastened Chancellor Helmut Kohl to admit the obvious: The bottom is still not in sight.
"The most dramatic job losses are occurring at Volkswagen, Europe's biggest carmaker. It announced on Oct. 25 that it will go to a four-day work week next year to cut costs - a move that signifies another crack in Germany's social pact, as unions are forced to make unprecedented concessions. VW's new cutback follows an agreement with its unions to eliminate 15,000 jobs.
"Of course, Germany's neighbors also are eyeing export growth to boost their economies, and many of them have an edge in the form of depreciated currencies. That's why a weaker mark may be inevitable if Germany is to get back on its feet.
"When Germany's veteran leader sounds worried, when its top auto maker slashes jobs, and when its rigid central bank even hints that the vaunted German mark might have to come down a peg, you know the economy's in bad shape. But if Germany doesn't swallow its pride and make some drastic changes, better times will be a long time in coming."
(By John Templeman with Bill Javetski - Business Week, November 8, 1993)
In Daniel 2: 34,35 we have the prophecy of the metallic image and how it was destroyed; and in verse 44 it is mentioned that the present order of things would be replaced by God's Kingdom which would never be destroyed. The present order of things is deteriorating rapidly.
However, we will consider this deterioration from the Financial aspect. The stock market has been "churning" during the past year due to uncertainties. The public has been pouring billions into mutual funds. People want to invest with a minimum of risk and keep ahead of inflation. There are now 4300 mutual funds. Money in mutual funds has doubled in three years.
The average American is concerned about his or her job. The layoff statistics are relentless with each week bringing news of additional thousands of layoffs.
One of the biggest issues before the Americans is the national debt. In a recent best seller, Bankruptcy 1995, the author presents the facts to show that, unless we reverse the "tax and spend" policy of our government, by 1995 we will be bankrupt. Many will say, "We will never payoff the national debt." Politicians say, "Yes we wil1." It will be paid off with newly freshly minted legal tender paper dollars with lowered purchasing power. In the final analysis, all paper money will be measured against gold. Gold is the ultimate standard - the final measure of money.
All debts must ultimately be settled. Debt can be paid off but can also be reneged (bankruptcy) or forgiven as the U.S.. did for Egypt.
Regarding the proposed health care program one writer of a popular newsletter says, "The President may have achieved in one bill something that could finally bankrupt the government and destroy the greatest medical care system in the world. We are back in the old game of promise stuff we can't deliver."
Another well known and respected newsletter writer states, "Altogether, the .U.S. government IOUs in the form of U.S. Treasury Bonds, Notes and Bills add up to some $4.3 trillion. And as candidate Ross Perot was fond of telling us the interest on these IOUs is mounting fast. At the current rate of growth, by 1995 it will take the income taxes of all American citizens just to pay the interest. By that time, nearly all operations of the federal government will have to be financed with more debt." More comment from this writer: "It doesn't take a genius to see that the federal debt can't and won't be paid off. Nor does it take a rocket scientist to see that things can't continue going in this same direction for 'very long.'"
It has been known for sometime that the government has the facilities to produce "New Money." Originally they called the New Money an anti-counterfeiting measure. But private counterfeiting is dwindling (not counting the Federal Reserve). Now they claim the New Money will rob launderers and drug dealers, but the prime target is you. The politicians and bureaucrats want to tax and control every dime the middle class has and the New Money will make it possible.
While the immediate prospect is one of gloom and doom, we have the Word of the Lord that assures us that the present evil order must be removed before the dawning of that Day for which we have been praying for so long, Thy Kingdom Come. "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you." (James 4:8) (Contributed)
1994 will show how the new tax rate will affect the economy. The fears are that the tax bite will hurt the economy. The wealthy will pay much of the new tax. Not since the early 1920' s have peace time tax rates on individuals been raised so dramatically. Large, major companies are laying off people and cutting back. Also there is the worry about NAFTA. Only time will tell how that will affect the u.s. government. A good example is the u.s. ship builder's merchant fleet, which since 1960 has shrunk from 900 ships to 300 ships. Two large cargo carriers, CXX and Sealand, have asked the Department of Transportation for approval to operate their main vessels under authority of other countries. Sealand said it would cost so much for insurance and maintenance along with the strong, stringent safety regulations of the U.S.A. that it would make it difficult to compete with foreign vessels.
1994 is a difficult year to predict. There is no reason for the country to be laying off people. The stock market is high; gold prices are down; the economy is like a ship without a rudder. With companies cutting back one would think that there is going to be a recession, but the stock market is still up. However, the stock market can came down awfully fast as it did in the 1930's.
LUTHERANS: "Lutheran report urges church to accept a wider sense of sexuality: Masturbation is healthy, the Bible supports homosexual unions and teaching teens how to use condoms to prevent disease is a moral imperative, says a task force leading the nation's largest Lutheran body into the sex wars.
"Four years in the making, a draft statement going before the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America declares that the core of human sexuality should be loving, committed relationships - and not limited to heterosexual marriages.
"The report begins with a confession that the church has too often overlooked 'the created goodness of sexuality.' For example, the task force urges people to learn the pleasures of masturbation.
"It cited sex education including the use of condoms as a 'moral imperative' and said 'responsible biblical interpretation' strongly supports the acceptance and even the blessing of committed same-sex unions.
"The report attacks adultery, promiscuity, sexual abuse, prostitution, anti-gay violence, pornography and the exploitation of sexuality in advertising and entertainment. 'This is not anything goes. There are some things we stand against,' the Rev. Karen Bloomquist, director of the sexuality study, said Tuesday."
(Excerpts from The Orlando Sentinel, October 20, 1993)
It seems the Lutherans should have cited the Scriptures that teach "responsible biblical interpretation" which strongly supports the acceptance and even the blessing of committed same-sex unions.
The Bible says, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination." (Lev. 18:22)
"And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves recommence of their error which was meet." (Rom. 1:27)
"For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature." (Rom. 1:26)
It is sad to note that some of the churches in Christendom have discarded much of the Bible, and claim that such immorality is approved of God and that they have Scriptural support for their gross errors.
BAPTISTS: "Baptists' estimate of doomed souls stirs up controversy: A church estimate of people in Alabama who won't get into heaven angers many believers.
"Birmingham, Ala. - Only God knows who gets to heaven, but Southern Baptists estimate 46.1 percent of people in Alabama are bound for hell unless they change their ways.
"Since the figure from in-house church research on potentially doomed souls was made public, however, it has been Baptists who have felt the fire.
"The Southern Baptist Convention's county-by-county breakdown of who's bound for heaven and who isn't – unless they are born again and accept Jesus Christ as their savior – hit The Birmingham News on September 5. It's been the buzz in some Alabama pews since.
"Under the headline: 'Baptists count the lost,' the front-page story included a detailed map and box listing the 1.86 million 'unsaved' in precise percentages by county. But some of the faithful, Baptists as well as others, are incensed.
"'It is the pinnacle of presumptuousness to construct a formula for quantifying the unsaved,' Jack Denver of Homewood, a self-described 'practicing Christian,' wrote in a letter that was among about a dozen the newspaper published from irate readers.
"The study took each county's population and subtracted from it membership of all churches. After that, Baptist researchers used a secret formula to estimate how many people from different denominations and faiths were probably going to heaven.
"King said estimates of the unsaved from other creeds were based on how closely those groups' beliefs matched Southern Baptist doctrine. That means, for instance, that a higher percentage of Methodists are saved than are Roman Catholics.
"The index applied the traditional Baptist view that Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and members of other non-Christian religion's are not saved, the paper said.
"The Rev. Thomas Rainer, pastor of the Green Valley Baptist Church in Hoover, said he was amazed by the fuss. 'It has a good motive behind it, and that is not one of judging, but of teaching.' he said."
(Excerpts from the Associated Press)
It would be wise for the Baptists and other denominations to search the Scriptures for answers instead of their creeds. Acts 15:14 tells us that God is selecting a people for His Name during the Gospel Age. He is not selecting denominations, only individuals, for the purpose of blessing the world during the Kingdom. At present "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." (2 Cor. 4:4) The Scriptures tell us that "God is love." Would a God of love torture them that "believe not" when He permitted the "god of this-world" to blind them that believe not? "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all." (Rom. 11:32) That mercy is future, "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." (Acts 17:31)
Hell in the Old Testament is translated 31 times from the Hebrew word sheol which means oblivion, or the death state. However, the word sheol is found in the Old Testament 65 times. It is translated hell thirty-one times, grave thirty-one times and pit three times. "The dead know not anything." (Ecc. 9:5)
In the New Testament the word hell occurs 23 times. Eleven times it is translated from the Greek word hades, which is identical in meaning with the Hebrew word sheol. "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23), and "the soul that sinneth it shall die." (Ezek. 18:20) Jesus' soul was not left in hell - the death state (Acts 2:27). "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written~ There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." (Rom. 11:26) Not only Israel, but the whole world will be saved from the Adamic-Death, as all will be resurrected in the Kingdom. (John 5:28,29 and Acts 24:15)
Many of our readers know these things but some of them may not. So these things are written for their admonition. "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:17) in the Kingdom. All who obey will be saved: "And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear [obey] that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people." (Acts 3:23) Life is a blessing and death is a punishment. "Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away everyone of you from his iniquities." (Acts 3:26) The High Calling was "to the Jew first." He then visited the Gentiles to pick out a people for His Name. The name wasn't Baptist nor any other denomination but His Name.
"HEAVEN AND HELL: Alabama census of lost souls counts who's going where. The Southern Baptist in Alabama know exactly how many state citizens are going to hell and sent out a press release to say so.
"When the media message didn't go over big with some of the designated sinners, the Baptists blamed the whole business on the messenger.
"'It has amazed me how few Southern Baptists are willing to stand by their beliefs and not defend them,' says Greg Garrison, the newspaper reporter who first wrote about an audacious Baptist study called 'The Saved and The Lost.'
"Garrison reported that the 'church research found 46.1 percent of Alabamians were 'lost,' that is, 'unsaved,' ipso facto, hell bound.
"On its front page, The Birmingham News used the Baptists' 'entire statistical compendium' to illustrate Garrison's story with a county-by-county breakdown of sheep and goats. In other words, the newspaper used the Baptists' own rope to hang 'em.
"Using a secret formula to compute 'the lost,' the Baptist evidently began with the 25 percent state base of Southern Baptists. One can only assume most of them made the cut.
"Then, the other kinds of Baptists - Missionary, Primitive, etc, - were counted and considered, as well as mainstream Protestant denominations like Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran.
"'The farther you get away from the Baptist doctrine, the fewer 'saved' you had,' explained Garrison, a mild-mannered veteran of the religious beat who thus far has been approached by angry preachers, the BBC and 'Harpers' magazine about his story.
"By the time Alabama's Catholics, Jews and Hindus were counted, it's a good guess that the Baptist bus bound for heaven was full. No room at the inn. Outta here.
"Well, well, it's one thing to presume such a study, but it's quite another to see it illustrated on the front page and written about in plain language. Thus began the shouting - and the Baptist retreat.
"The study was supposed to be used internally only, the Baptists declared, to help churches know where to stress evangelical outreach. The Baptist Home Mission Board did the study in all states, but only Alabama Baptists made the mistake of announcing it. (I suspect it'll disappear altogether after this hubbub.)
"One pastor telephoned and chastised Garrison for 'making' the Baptist look 'judgmental.' Not all Baptists even believe in a literal hell, he said. Saving souls is the whole point, he insisted.
"I grew up in the Southern Baptist church and: believe me, for Baptists, going to hell was as real as going to Tallahassee. One of us is mistaken about the theology.
"And what exactly are you saving people from, if not hell, Garrison, asked the preacher.'Baptists need to come to grips with their own theology,' he concludes.
"Garrison also denies he sensationalized or skewed the study results. After all 46.1 percent is pretty exact and reflects somebody's willingness to make a judgment call. The lost-and-found may be secret, but it sure exists.
"Southern Baptists were different when I was a girl. That is, they were more like all other denominations. Sure, they believed in heaven and hell, lost and saved, but it had nothing to do with political parties or statistical breakdowns. We went to church, heard a sermon, and then mixed it up with the Methodists at Morrison's Cafeteria.
"Baptists today are forever whining that they are portrayed as intolerant. Maybe it's because they are intolerant. You cannot commission a study to decide who is saved and who is lost without somebody, somewhere taking offense at the labels. Especially those told they're going to hell. Especially after you send out a press release."
(By Rheta Grimsley Johnson, a syndicated columnist - The Island Packet, Sept. 27, 1993)
As for going to hell, all will go to hell, the good and the bad. God told Adam he would die in the day he ate the forbidden fruit. A day with the Lord is 1,000 years (2 Peter 3:8), and Adam died at the age of 930, within the thousand-year day. We inherited that curse from Adam. Death is a sleep. All are asleep in Jesus, as they will all be resurrected (John 5:28,29 and Acts 24:15). When our Lord said to go to all nations and make disciples, He meant for us to disciple all who were "of the truth." (John 18:37) This is a Faith Age, the Kingdom is a Work's Age (Rev. 20:12; 22:12). We are Judged now by our Faith, altho we demonstrate our faith by our works. In the Kingdom people will have faith, but will be judged by their work - the work of obeying "that prophet" (Acts 3:23). But this obedience from the heart will give them eternal life on this earth, when His will is done in the earth as it is in heaven.
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES: The December 1993 Watchtower treats on humility, and cites Pastor Russell as their first president who was-humble. Also, they cited Rutherford, their second president as demonstrating his humility about the 1925 debacle. When time proved his predications were false, he had no other choice but to apologize for his mistake, as all knew his predictions were false. They cite the humility that their presidents have manifested up to their present one. They mentioned the six volumes of the Studies in the Scriptures, which they abandoned completely and no longer use in their study meetings. The reason for not using these volumes is because the JWs teachings do not resemble anything Pastor Russell taught. All their predictions of the future have been false, so their presidents were forced to appear humble when they apologized for their mistakes. It was apparent to all when time itself revealed their false predictions. Many have concluded that their organization's teachings are unreliable and their claim to be God's organization is false, for God makes no mistakes.
The November 1993 Watchtower continues to claim that Jehovah is God's Name, while we all know it is a hybrid obtained by adding vowels to YHVH. Jehovah was not used for the Creator until 1520 when it was introduced by Galatinus. Since that time the name Jehovah has been recognized by all Christendom, as well as by Bible Students. See our No. 447 paper, September 1993 for further details on the name Jehovah.
Jehovah's Witnesses is a sectarian name selected for their followers after Brother Russell's demise to distinguish themselves from Bible Students. Bible Students is used by all groups who to this day still use Brother Russell's books in their class studies, and is the proper name for all who are seeking to abide by God's inspired word. The sectarian name Jehovah's Witnesses is condemnatory of themselves.
In the November 1, 1993 Watchtower, there is this: "Without any doubt at all, it was the small body of anointed brothers of Jesus who in 1914 were known as Bible Students but since 1931 have been identified as Jehovah's Witnesses. (Isaiah 43: 10) Only they have publicized the restored Kingdom in the line of David. (Matthew 24:14) Only they have remained separate from the world and magnified Jehovah's [a mongrel expression] name. (John 17:6,14) And only on them have Bible prophecies [false prophecies] relating to God's people in the last days been fulfilled. Among these prophecies is the series of prophetic periods listed in Daniel chapter 12 that includes the 1,335 days that would bring happiness." (P. 9, column 1, par. 1)
"Who would represent on earth the restored Davidic Kingdom? Not Daniel's fleshly brothers, the Jews. They had been rejected because they lacked faith and stumbled over the Messiah. (Romans 9:31-33) In no way was the faithful slave found in the organizations of Christendom! Their wicked works proved that Jesus did not know them. (Matthew 7: 21-23) (November 1, 1993 Watchtower, pp. 8, 9)
The Jews have been returned to Israel as God promised them. The New Covenant will be made with the Jews after the Lord cleanses them. Jeremiah 31:31 proves that. In Jacob's last trouble He will fight for them as "in the day of battle" (Zech. 14:1-3).
The Witnesses have followed some of the nominal churches who claim they are under the New Covenant - having replaced the Jews. It is strange that they make much ado about the errors in the nominal people, but embrace many of their errors. These churches claim that they are God's Kingdom by their acts of trying to save all now while Satan is the god of this world. The Witnesses are doing the same, by claiming to be God's Kingdom.
PINT-SIZE PEDDLERS: If they're barely tall enough to reach the doorbell, why are they there at all? I opened the front door and looked out - make that down. Two little girls in blue jeans …couldn't have been older than 8 or 9 ... A week later when Girl Scouts came to my door … It's not that I don't empathize with the Girl Scouts' need to raise money... But what I take offense at is the soliciting is being done by kids. Whether the product is cookies, raffle tickets or Watchtower pamphlets, using children as miniature sales ploys seems unfair to both the kids and the adults they're entreating.
"Sure, when the peddler is a small child I feel particularly mean and crotchety for saying no. I say it gently, and hope they don't take it personally. Nevertheless, the bottom line is, tots shouldn't be sent out to do grown-ups' work. And when they are, I don't choose to support the practice." (By Paula Spencer - Woman's Day, July 20, 1993)
"DEAD END FOR THE MAINLINE? Religion: The mightiest Protestants are running out of money. members and meaning. To join it, one would never know that the Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Ariz., is Lutheran - or that Pastor Walther Kallestad had been educated in a traditional Lutheran family, college and seminary. From the Steven Spielberg-like Sunday-school gimmicks to the generic, Amy Grant music at worship services, everything is designed to 'meet the needs' of his nondenominational baby boomers. 'Be quick' is the first commandment. Moving faster than a Wendy's at lunch hour, the Church of Joy needs only five minutes to distribute communion to 1,000 worshipers. Still Pastor Kallestad insists, 'It's a very meaningful moment for our people.' Sermons take a bit longer because Terey Summers, Arizona's Actress of the Year, likes to stage skits in the sanctuary instead of having ministers preach from the pulpit. 'People today aren't interested in traditional doctrines like justification, sanctification and redemption,' the pastor has concluded.
"Whatever it is, it works. The Church of Joy has over 6,000 members and another 6,000 who participate in the more than 100 recovery and other special-interest programs that keep the church doors turning seven days a week. That's not what Martin Luther may have had in mind when he set out to reform Christianity - but that's the point. There's a new Reformation in American religion, and this time it is not the Church of Rome but Lutheran and other mainline Protestant denominations that are under siege. Like the officers of beleaguered IBM and other seemingly solid American institutions, the leaders of the once robust Protestant establishment face the loss of brand name loyalty.
"Aging flocks: For 25 consecutive years, liberal Protestantism's seven-sister denominations have watched their collective membership decline. Although the number of Protestants in general is growing - an evangelical church is opening somewhere almost daily-the mainline denominations are not. They now account for just 24 percent of the American population. Their flocks are aging, their budgets shrinking. Morale is low. Many local congregations are rejecting control by denominational leaders and cutting back on funds to support their national programs. From every angle, mainline Protestantism is gripped by crisis; of identity and loyalty, membership and money, leadership and organization, culture and belief.
"Across the mainline this summer, there's a mood of embattled introspection. The Bishops on the United Methodist Church's Executive Committee pushed aside their position papers and for three hours simply searched their souls. 'What does it mean to be a United Methodist?' they asked each other ... 'Churches without any self-understanding lose members,' acknowledges the Rev. Jim Andrews, head of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which recently eliminated 175 staff positions for lack of sufficient funds from its declining flock.
"Now they are struggling to define themselves in a world where adjectives like 'Methodist' or 'Presbyterian' no longer mean anything to most Americans."
A footnote in this article says: "The Episcopal Church, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Methodist Church, the American Baptist Churches, the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: Presbyterian Membership 1965: 4.2 million, Membership 1992: 2.8 million; American Baptist Membership 1965: 1.3 million, Membership 1993: 1.2 million; Lutheran Membership 1965: 5.7 million, Membership 1992: 5.2 million."
(By Kenneth L. Woodward - Newsweek, August 9, 1993)
God is taking out a people for His Name (Acts 15: 14) to bless the world in His Kingdom (Acts 17:31). He is not selecting Lutherans, Presbyterians, Catholics and Baptists. However, there may have been some in all the churches. God knows who are His (2 Tim. 2:19). We want our names written in heaven. We are not anxious to get our name on church books. However, in times past they did a lot of good, and had members that God recognized as His own. But now it seems that members and money are getting scarce with many of them. Religion is a big business these days; When people fail in other things, a few of them resort to religion with many of them successful in getting money they couldn't otherwise get.