The number of working still-photography photojournalists is declining in America and other countries, and newspapers are going out of business or are being bought out by large conglomerates. Pastors are also leaving the ministry in record numbers and 6,000 to 10,000 churches close every year. The statistics look similar on their face, but they seem quite different when examined more closely. Deeper study, though, reveals an alarming commonality between the two phenomena and other trends.
The Chicago Tribune fired its entire photography department on May 30, 2013, including John H. White who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982. The Tribune is owned by the Sun-Times Media Group which owns 39 daily and weekly papers, including the Tribune. The Group depends on free-lance photographers and supplements these with reporters taking pictures, many times with their phones. This shows a lack of commitment and responsibility to readers. Reporters are not photographers. Photojournalists bring a deeper understanding of the news to readers because their images tell a story that reporters don’t understand how to communicate visually. Good photographers like White do know this. It’s their job to know. Firing the photographers reduced the quality of reporting by the paper to a significant extent.
Pastors are leaving the ministry in record numbers mostly for personal reasons. Many are disenchanted with the job due to stressful work, the long hours required which keeps them away from their families, and the low pay for the job in most churches. And, up to 10,000 churches are closing every year. This trend seems to be different on the surface than the declining photojournalist population but it’s related at a deeper level.
The common thread that ties the two phenomena together is the reduction of ethics and commitment to service by society in general. Reporters snapping pictures with their phones is good enough for the papers. And thriving churches are most often based on feel-good preaching that is more pop psychology than sound theology. These churches thrive because they tell people what they want to hear, not what Christ taught. I watched five broadcasts by a popular California-based TV preacher. He mentioned a Bible passage exactly three times in the five sermons. In some he didn’t mention any. His messages were secular in nature. The prosperity theme of another media evangelist based in Texas is if you give money to God, He will return it tenfold. The implication, of course, is that you give the money to his ministry. Biblical prosperity is not monetary in nature, it’s spiritual prosperity.
The superficiality is to be expected. It’s what has happened in the past, and the Bible tells us it’s going to get worse in the future. Sodom and Gomorrah were reduced to the instant gratification of desires rather than a commitment to God’s commands. They haven’t existed for centuries. Isaiah, other prophets, and Christ have warned us about the coming trend and what it leads to in the long run. Two forces are at work here. God is increasing His warnings to come to Him before He returns, and the devil’s influence is increasing. His influence is clearly shown in TV programs such as the new “Evil” show. An ad for the program showed the image of the Goat of Mendes, a representation of Satan.
The devil’s leading the masses away from thinking too deeply about who we are, where we came from, and most importantly where we’re going. He’s convinced the majority of Americans that Jesus is only a way to salvation, not the way, as the Bible teaches: ” I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” And, he’s convinced 56 percent of us that the Holy Spirit is only a force, not a Person of the Trinity. He’s convinced most people that there are no absolutes, which is a lie. He’s the author of the “if it feels good, do it” slogan, and the humanist elevation of man to a godly level, that comprise what I call the Sodom syndrome. The syndrome is basically the rejection of God and a form of self-idolatry.
Sound Bible-preaching churches still exist, and thank God for them! They are God’s voice in the wilderness crying out for people to take warning before God forcloses on society’s debt to Him. A popular song was about the unicorns who danced and played, heedless of God’s coming flood until too late. The last line of the song said, “you’re never gonna see no unicorns”. Likewise, the Bible-preaching churches today need to stress the impending disaster that awaits those who dance and play rather than live according to God’s commandments. You’re never gonna see no secular people in heaven.
The commonality between the loss of photojournalists, pastors, and churches is ultimately a carefully crafted plan by the devil to lure people away from God. And, the sad reality is that his plan is working all too well. The majority of people are following the devil even though they would adamantly deny doing so if they were directly confronted with the fact. They are nowhere people, like a line from the Beetle’s song, “Nowhere Man”: “Doesn’t have a point of view, knows not where he’s going to, isn’t he a bit like you-and me”. I think that many people simply refuse to admit they know where they’re headed, because it’s more fun to follow worldly desires than it is to adhere to God’s plan for their lives. They eat, drink, and be merry while refusing to believe that tomorrow they die. Spiritual death is the eternal separation from God. And eternity is forever.
A sign is posted over the inside of many church doors says, “You’re now entering your mission field”. Missionary work starts at home. Lost people live in your neighborhood as well as West Boondock, Africa. They need God as much as those in other countries. And, churches are made up of individuals working in harmony with each other and God. We’re away from church most of the week, but we’re not out of it. We’re still members of the real church which is the body of Christ, not the building we worship Him in. Our immediate mission field is just outside our doors. We need to impress on our secular friends and neighbors that they need Christ more than money, a new car, or a new TV that takes up most of the living room wall.
We must be careful not to alienate our neighbors while witnessing to them. I’ve said many times before that the best witness we have is our lifestyle, how we live our lives. If we live according to the Great Commandment, “Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name o the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world ( Matthew 28: 19,20). We overcome our problems with God’s guidance and help, and then they will want what we have whether they admit it to themselves or to us. It’s our responsibility to get them to step out in faith. So, start today. Time is short.