America is in a state of crisis. This is not because the paperbacks and the commentators say so, but because the red-necked racists, the wild kids on the beaches, the punks, the beatniks, the pregnant high school girls, the dope addicts, the vandals, the TV addicts, the sick readers of sick books, the sick viewers of sick movies, are saying so. The Communists are still dedicated to controlling this world and burying the United States. It is a time of crisis because the Chinese have the atomic bomb. We are at a new low in the choice given us in Presidential candidates in regard to spiritual matters. The spiritual poverty in Presidential candidates is greater than the material poverty of Appalachia. Moreover, the population explosion is causing a crisis in Christian numerical strength. In 1964 the Christian community accounts for 34 per cent of the world’s population, but by the year 2000 we will account for only 22 per cent.

We are in a state of crisis, also, because we are ministering essentially to materialists. The average American has never had so much and enjoyed it so little. The affluent member of the great society is desperately dissatisfied, tremendously restless. Vance Packard, author of The Hidden Persuaders, believes that Huxley was right in saying technology would destroy what we have known as beauty. Mr. Packard says that according to national figures we Americans change cars every two and a quarter years, friends every four years, and wives every seven years. We are lacking in a sense of basic worth, individuality, selfhood.

The morality of America is being determined by the producers and not by the consumers. The boys in the gray flannel suits on Madison Avenue have taken the place of the men in the black gowns and are false prophets. It is a time of crisis!

In the midst of this stands the Church, the Church of the living God, the visible body and bride of Jesus Christ, purchased by his blood shed on the Cross, declaring a fundamental message. There is a God! Man is not God. There is a Supreme Being, the God of history. In incredible love he speaks through the Bible, his revealed Word, which is trustworthy. God speaks through the fallible conscience of man. He speaks through the experiences of providence. But he speaks supremely through Jesus Christ, his virgin-born son who reveals God the Father, active in reconciliation, in redemption; the result is the miracle of the new birth. This good news is a power of God unto salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit, who produces a new creature in Christ. There is forgiveness. There is the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses from all sin—the sin of hostility toward our Creator; the sin of rejection of the love of Jesus Christ as seen through the Cross; the sin of self-ruination; the sin of alienation from God and his love; the sin of failure to reach the highest point of development for which we were born; the sin of refusal to love, refusal to be reconciled to ourselves and to our fellow men.

The Church proclaims also that this life is not all. There is life beyond the grave. There is resurrection. There is immortality. There is a heaven that is future. Meanwhile, life does not consist in the things man possesses.

This is the towering task of the Church of Jesus Christ. The glorious message of Jesus Christ is adequate and relevant. Let us proclaim it and live it in the market place of life. Let us tell it to the ubiquitous, good-time Charlies, those who are stalled in brooding despair; mangled by poverty; sullied and dispirited by plenty; fouled and misbegotten by pleasure; caught in the junk-furnished web of science; stuffed with a billion hamburgers and deafened by the cornucopian horn. We need to say to the empty materialist, “You must be born again. Jesus Christ has come to seek you.” This good news is compassionate, urgent, and contemporary.

We have been challenged to rethink the adequacy, the pertinence, the effectiveness of this Gospel. It must be exported beyond the institutional church to the plants, offices, labs, homes, and classrooms where the people are. Let the Baptist Jubilee Advance be a launching pad for an even greater quest for the soul of space-age man. God should be praised for a denomination that wants to reappraise with agony, wants to be identified with man in his need, wants to be relevant, and is willing to experiment. But let the results be in names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and on the rolls of the institutional church.—DR. J. LESTER HARNISH, president, American Baptist Convention.

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