Stand up! Speak up! Refuse to give up!
By Rick Scarborough, President of Vision America
Abraham Lincoln famously stated, “I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just.”
Vincent Van Gogh was born in Holland on March 30, 1853. Today his original art works are considered some of the most valuable in the world. His work, “Portrait of Doctor Gachet”, painted in 1890 -shortly before his death by gunshot wound, at age 37, sold in 1990, for $82.5 million. Three of his original works have sold for more than $50 million each.
Yet, during his life, he considered himself a failure and fought mental illness throughout his adult life. It is widely held that he took his own life though no gun was ever found.
Vincent Van Gogh was born into a family of preachers. His father and grandfather were both ministers in the Dutch Reformed Church…and Van Gogh followed in their footsteps.
“He has sent me to preach the Gospel to the poor,” he declared to his brother, Theo, in a letter dated 1876. For the next three years, Van Gogh single-mindedly pursued his calling to the ministry: first, as a student of theology; and then, as a missionary to the coal miners in the Belgian Borinage.
Van Gogh, who grew up in a family of privilege, had never before been exposed to such poverty. He was so moved by the needs of his congregation, that he refused to live in the housing provided for him by his Church hierarchy, and instead lived in quarters similar to the miners. He sold his fine clothes and personal belongings and distributed the proceeds to needy families.
In other words, he took his faith seriously! And, his congregation responded to him with growing affection and numbers attending his church. He was quite successful as a pastor.
After several months on the field, the denominational headquarters sent one of their executives to see how the young preacher was faring. An inspector of the Evangelization Council came to the conclusion that the missionary’s zeal bordered on the scandalous, and he reported Van Gogh’s behavior to church authorities.
Although Van Gogh was successful in his ministry, the hierarchy of the Dutch Reformed Church fired him for lowering the dignity of the ministry. In late 1879, he left the church, embittered and impoverished.
He turned to his second passion…painting. One of the last works he did, and among his most famous paintings, is The Church…it is a haunting depiction of the church today.
First, notice that there are no doors on the church. The folks inside the church cannot get out, and the people outside the church cannot get in. The church building is a prison to those within, and irrelevant to those without.
Second, notice that the road forks in front of the church, and the woman is on a path around the church, since she cannot get in. To her, the church is of little or no value.
The church is increasingly irrelevant today. Much of the blame falls at the feet of today’s clergy…just as it did in Vincent Van Gogh’s day.
Van Gogh continued to study the Bible even after abandoning his ministerial calling. His death came a short time later at the young age of 37.
What a waste, and what a tragic tale of our day as well!
As the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Pearland, Texas, located on the Southeast side of the greater Houston Metropolitan area, during the 90’s up until 2002, I was confronted with the direct question: Would I please my congregation, or would I confront very clear evil in our local government?
It began with a routine high school assembly where my two oldest children were both enrolled. I discovered the assembly speaker would be advocating for “safe sex,” which is code for immoral sex.
I attended the assembly and was shocked at the content and nature of the presentation. We were in a campaign to convince the congregation of the need for relocating the church, having outgrown the present facilities and property. The last thing I needed was to be involved in a school controversy.
But, as I sat through the presenters remarks, I remembered my first responsibility was to my Lord, followed closely by my responsibility to my family. So, I decided I would not let this assembly continue without confronting the speaker about the false assumption that you can defy God’s moral law without consequences.
I spoke up! During the assembly and afterwards, as the controversy grew. Finally, I won, because the majority of citizens knew that what I said was right. As a result of that assembly, I began preaching on the need for the church to be relevant, providing moral guidance to the community. I began urging our congregation to get involved in civil government.
I began preaching on the need for our members to run for public office and make a difference in our schools and civil government.
As a result, during my twelve years as the senior pastor of that congregation, members of our church ran and secured seats on the local School Board, City Council, and in county government. That was in the 90’s. Today, there are two sitting members of Congress that were impacted either directly or indirectly by the ministry of First Baptist Church of Pearland, Texas.
In 2002, I resigned to devote full time to Vision America, a ministry devoted to mobilizing pastors to be pro-active in restoring America to her Judeo-Christian roots, apart from which she will fail to uphold what made her a nation set apart in the world—-a nation unlike any the world has ever known.
Ronald Reagan famously referred to America as the “shining city set upon a hill.”
Today, that which made America great is in grave danger of being lost, and I blame the preachers who have neglected their high calling of being the Prophets in the land, calling the American Church to repentance and righteousness.
Charles Finney, an attorney turned Evangelist during the era leading up to the Civil War, said:
If there is a decay of conscience…the pulpit is responsible for it.
If the public press lacks moral discernment…the pulpit is responsible for it.
If the church is degenerate and worldly…the pulpit is responsible for it.
If the world loses its interest in Christianity…the pulpit is responsible for it.
If Satan rules in our halls of legislation…the pulpit is responsible for it.
If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations
of our government are ready to fall away…the pulpit is responsible for it.
I fully agree with Finney’s assessment. There is a disconnect with what many pastors of America are preaching and what is happening in the real world of our country.
Thankfully, there are wonderful and notable exceptions to the rule. Dr. Ted Baehr is one of those wonderful exceptions. Possessing two Doctoral degrees, he has been willing to allow his faith in Christ to make an impact on our culture
But, unfortunately for America, it seems that far too many preachers are seeking the approval of their peers and their congregations more than the approval of God. The results are devastating, with families literally disintegrating leading to an impoverished society.
Vision America was created to find the preachers who understand their role in restoring America.
Please pray for us as we travel the country seeking to find the remnant of preachers who still practice the message of the by-line of Vision America: Pastors who faithfully…
Speak up! And…
Refuse to give up!
Editor’s note: Rick Scarborough is the founder and president of Vision America, an organization dedicated to educating and mobilizing Pastors into the moral/civil arena. He is an ordained minister of the Gospel and has authored a number of books including Enough is Enough, which chronicles his own activism as a successful pastor of a large church on the southeast side of Houston from 1990-2002. For more information, please go to: www.VisionAmerica.org