Let me ask the pastors of our community and our nation: Is there thunder coming forth from your pulpit? John Adams, in speaking of the pastors of the founding days of our nation, said thunder sounded forth from their pulpits. He stated that the clergy was the most ardent and influential voice that led to American independence. Can this be said of our pastors today? Have pastors allowed the world to intimidate them, causing them to cower from thundering against the sin and wickedness and the injustices of our government and society? Does thunder sound forth from your pastor's pulpit?
So powerful was the message of the pastors in the decades leading up to our independence that the British called them the Black Robed Regiment. This was intended as a slur to the black robes the pastors wore in those days. This would remind me of the thunderous message of the early church that led to the apostles being arrested numerous times. Remember the government of that day demanded, "Did not we straightly command you that ye should not speak in this name? And, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine." (Acts 5: 28) What was the apostles' response, "we ought to obey God rather than men. (v. 29) Where is that thunder and power today? Oh that's right, we cannot thunder against the government because we will lose our tax-exempt status, not to mention we may lose some members.
James warns us "double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." (James 1: 8) This most certainly could not be said of these founding pastors. Many have noted the power of their message. The American Quarterly Register, 1833, stated; "The pulpits of the land rang with the notes of freedom." The British periodical, Bibliotheca Sacra, 1856, spoke of their influence. "If Christian ministers had not preached and prayed, there might have been no revolution." B.F. Morris, historian (1864) notes, "the ministers of the Revolution were bold and fearless in the cause of their country. No class of men contributed more to carry forward the Revolution and to achieve our independence than did the ministers." Historian Alice Baldwin, 1918, boldly points out that "the Constitutional Convention and the written Constitution were the children of the pulpit." Allow me to ask: Does thunder ring from your pastor's pulpit?
There is no justification or evidence to question the powerful influence our founding pastors had in the independence of America. David Barton, the founder of WallBuilders, addresses this point in his article, "The American Revolution: Was it an Act of Biblical Rebellion?" He affirms "that today's critics are either uninformed about the actual historical and theological writings from the Reformation through the Revolution, or that they disagree with the theological positions held by the Founding Fathers, theologians, and ministers of that era" As Peter and John proclaimed to the magistrates, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye." (Acts 4: 19) Does your pastor take this stand?
When you consider the involvement of pastors in the forming of this nation, one would have to conclude that the "separation of church and state" argument holds no water. In fact, a careful study of Jefferson's exchange with the Danbury Baptist Association in which this statement was made is actually a confirmation of the Baptists' right to the free exercise of their religion, not one of government hindrance of that expression. Pastors were both active voices and participants in the independence of America. Allow me to cite just a few examples.
1619 - The meeting of America's first representative government, the Virginia House of Burgesses. This meeting was held in the Jamestown Church choir loft, opened in prayer by the pastor, the Rev. Richard Burke, and several of the legislative members were clergymen.
1765 - Leading the opposition to Britain's Stamp Act was the Revs. Elliot, Chauncy, Cooper, Mayhew, Whitefield and many others. Whitefield accompanied Benjamin Franklin to Parliament to protest the Act. It was said that the clergy fanned the fire of resistance into a strong fire.
Paul Revere's famous ride led him to the home of the Rev. Jonas Clark in Lexington, where the patriots John Hancock and Samuel Adams were lodging, as they often did. When Hancock and Adams inquired of Clark whether the people were ready to fight, the Rev. Clark's unhesitant reply was, "I have trained them for this hour." Historian Joel Headley says it was "the patriotic preaching of the Rev. Clark that primed their guns." Headley gives the account of numerous other clergy that led forces against the British. He states that it is little wonder these early patriotic pastors were dubbed the Black Robed Regiment.
The list of pastors involved in the forming of the colonies and the writing of their documents are numerous. These same pastors fearlessly thundered from their pulpits and ultimately took up arms to win the independence of America. To this I am reminded of the staunch rebuke our Lord had for the leaders of his day and his fearless actions as he drove the money changers from His Father's house with a whip. I must ask where the thunder is today; where are the fearless actions of our pastors?
In 1789, a Washington, D.C., newspaper spoke of those early clergymen, stating "may the virtue, zeal and patriotism of our clergy be ever particularly remembered." The Rev. Charles Finney, a leader in the Second Great Awakening, reminded the pastors of his day that if the church is degenerate and worldly, if the world loses interest in religion, if Satan rules in our halls of legislation and if our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible. "Be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation."
This call must go out today. As Iowa Pastor Mike Demastus speaks of the "fire that is in my bones," pastors must lead the fight to restore Christian values. "There is a concerted assault on everything that we consider sacred." Pastor Jim Garlow of the Skyline Church, La Mesa, Calif., warns pastors, "this country is at a critical crossroads. Pastors have to understand their unique role." Pastors, will you answer the call? Will you be emboldened to sound forth from your pulpit the call to your congregation to join in the battle to save our nation?