Killing Faith Softly: Fear-Based Preaching and the Death of the Modern Church

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

Determining what makes a church or faith-based organization successful is based on the needs of the community, the passion of the members and the vision of the organization’s leadership. If the community decides it does not need a faith-based organization in its midst, it will not support the organization and the organization will ultimately “die out” due to lack of participation, support, and encouragement from the community.

The passion of the members is what fuels the ministry and purpose of the organization. Without passion, the programming and ministry fail, and the organization fails. However, the key component to the success of any organization is the vision of the leadership and the ability of the leadership team to implement that vision.

If the vision of leadership is clouded with bigotry of any form and tainted by Bible-thumping hatred, the long-term sustainability of the organization will be uncertain. This type of leader has lost sight of the command given to the disciples by Jesus as He ascended into heaven. In Mark 28 and in Acts 1, Jesus instructs the disciples to be a living witness.

God has not given us a spirit of hatred, fear, or lack of integrity. A leader with limited vision thrives on spewing Bible-based hatred and expects their followers to do the same. These sign-toting, bible-thumping braggarts appear with 10-foot-tall signs demanding that anyone within earshot or eyesight of their sign REPENT and BE SAVED. Their form of salvation comes at the expense of inviting others to join an organization that cannot handle nor understand the true depth of God’s love and thus that organization lacks sustainability.

If allowed to continue this self-destructive course, this type of organization has an unintended impact on the community around them. Instead of drawing the world to Christ, this type of organization drives the community around them away from God, away from worship or away from any desire to participate actively in a faith community. When allowed to continue, this type of organization and this style of leadership will reveal its inability to sustain itself and will ultimately self-destruct.

As this generation marches boldly into the 2020s, the mass communications industry and social media outlets have found their sustainability by creating encouraging ads that promote positive self-images, complete self-care, the acceptance of the extended family, and the acceptance of others no matter who they are or who they love. Messages focused on self-loathing and promises that the reader will burn in hell are no longer tempting to the public and serve only to stir anger and animosity. Those negative messages drive people away from the Creator and send them into the vastness of the dark hole known as cyberspace.

In the midst of a generation focused on instant communication and the need for even more instant personal gratification, how will the old-fashioned fundamentalist survive should they continue to preach a message of hate, fear and anti-anything that does not fit their vision of who God is?

To thrive we must be willing to cross the lines of ancient theology, doctrine and dogma to refocus on Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV): “’Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Creator and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”’

The focus here is not upon bending people into a strict Christian mode that has a limited view of what makes good conduct. The focus is to teach people what Jesus taught – love. Love God, love self, and love others.

In order to remain sustainable, every faith-based group must consider how what they do affects current and future generations. Is the religion of my grandfather good enough for me? Social sustainability for every faith-based organization must review its mission based on these three important factors – what is their economic impact; what is their environmental impact; and what is their social impact?

To be sustainable as an organization is to live as if you intend to stay. If the old-fashioned fundamentalist intends to stay, then they must understand that their approach determines the response. A constant menu filled with ‘God hates’ will lead to the congestive heart failure of the organization as it proves its lack of sustainability.

I believe we are to approach the throne of God with an attitude of gratitude, not a heart filled with fear that we are going to die and go to hell unless we follow a specific formula for salvation. There is no complicated formula for salvation, only the need to believe.

I cannot shape someone else’s journey on the road to salvation. Yes, I can offer helpful hints and tips, but how they get there is up to them.

My role is to live a life pleasing to God as best I can. To set an example of what it means to be Bible fed and Spirit led. To meet God’s people where they are and welcome them on this journey to this place some call heaven.