You can hear it here.
I have to admit some of the things he said were true and needed to be said, such as the fact that the evangelical church has been politicized and is often in bed with the Republican party. You don't have to have read my blog for long to know that that resonates with me.
However, there were many more things that he said which caused me concern. The overarching theme, as I'd suspected earlier, was the love of God to the exclusion of His wrath. For God's love to make any sense at all, however, it must be paired with His wrath and this is sorely lacking in the preaching of today. If we've been born again, understanding God's anger at sin helps us appreciate His love and grace all the more. For the unregenerate, the realization that God is angry at their sin and will judge them for it, apart from their repentance, is often the thing the Holy Spirit uses to convert them. Jonathan Edward's sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God", possibly the most famous sermon ever preached in America, was used mightily by God during the First Great Awakening to convert many souls. Despite the politically correct messages coming from many churches today, scripture could not be clearer that those who are not Christians are God's enemies and His wrath abides on them (John 3:36, Romans 5:10, Ephesians 2:3). Every verse touting God's love can and should be juxtaposed with those which reveal His anger at sin. To do otherwise is to present a half god to people. Real love tells people the truth.
I think, in fact, this is one of the other things that concerned me about Rev. Lee's message, a tendency to misunderstand what love is. Erich Segal said "Love is never having to say you're sorry", Rev. Lee seems to be saying "Love means never doing anything that brings any discomfort or pain into someone's life." Just this past Sunday our pastor pointed out that truly loving someone often means they will experience pain. No one likes to be told they are a sinner and that apart from Christ they will perish. No one in love with their sin (as we all are in our flesh) likes to be told to forsake it. Yet true love requires that those things be said. However, Rev. Lee said to those to whom he was apologizing that he was "sorry for any pain you've experienced. (from those in the church)" ANY pain? We don't covet the highest and best for our children, our friends, for anyone when our goal for them is that they never experience pain. We in fact, do them harm when that is our goal for them.
In a recent article by Jay Adams entitled Stand Firm he talks about what the church needs to be in order to meet the challenges of the future, I'd recommend reading it in its entirety. However, one of the best points it makes is this:
My concern is with the softening of the church. For you to make a future impact for Christ, and to be able to withstand hard times ahead, this trend must be reversed. There is a deplorable softening of doctrine, of attitudes, of courage, and of language. And it is all justified under the rubric of “love.” But there is a vast difference between a loving and a concessive spirit...a church that puts fellowship above truth is a weak church that will be unable to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
Just one example that I noticed of this softening of language in particular in Rev. Lee's message was the constant reference to the "unchurched" (a favorite term of the seeker sensitive crowd). The Bible calls people apart from Christ lost. They don't need to be "churched" they need to be saved.
There also seemed to be a tendency to confuse man-made religious standards with God's standards. We certainly do not want to elevate our standards and traditions to the level of scripture, that's text book legalism. On that point I agree with Rev. Lee. However, by the same token we don't want to lower God's standards to the level of simply our own religious traditions. Prohibitions against sex outside of marriage, whether it be homosexual or heterosexual, and the murder of unborn children are not "our" standards they are God's standards and should be treated as such. We have no need to apologize for affirming those standards loudly and clearly and, again, true love requires that we MUST call them sin and call those engaged in them to repentance.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing though in the whole message was his admission that he'd once picketed an abortion clinic and was involved in the "whole pro-life movement" and now wanted to apologize for that. I find that shocking. Of course he reassured his audience that he's decidedly pro-life but apparently he doesn't believe its legitimate or loving to take action of any kind to back up that belief except telling women who've had abortions that he loves them. Abortion is the murder of a baby. Would he stand aside and watch someone murdered in a parking lot out of a desire not to offend the person committing the crime? He talked a lot about compassion in his message and how Jesus exhibited compassion and that we should follow His example. I agree:
"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea." - Mark 9:42
Jesus had more compassion for children than he did for those who intended them harm and so should we.
In the final analysis, Rev. Lee's concerns are legitimate and I feel he is sincere but misunderstands the root cause of the problems he's concerned with. The real issue is that the church has stopped being the church. It has stopped preaching the true and unchanging Gospel and has instead opted for a feel-good approach that gives people the warm and fuzzies and yet often leaves them unconverted. The Gospel is not "Jesus is really awesome and you'd like Him." If you want to read a Biblical gospel presentation start with Acts chapter 2. Nowhere in scripture are we told to tell people to come to Jesus because they might like Him. We are in fact told that to follow Jesus is to commit to Him totally and that to do so may in fact make our lives worse, not better. To give people the impression that they can take Jesus on retainer to see if they like Him is not truthful and therefore not loving.
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. - Mark 8:38
The reason teenagers leave the church after high school, the reason the divorce rate is the same inside the church as out is that the church is full of unconverted people. Top that off with the fact that the church has abandoned the Biblical mandate to engage in church discipline (that might make someone experience pain after all!) and you have a recipe for most of the problems we have in the church today both internally and with our ability to reach those outside the church with the Gospel.