Paul Washer’s Ten Indictments Against The Modern Church represents the first book of his that I have reviewed. Prior to this, I had viewed and listened to a number of his sermons. I wanted to venture out on his written material. It turns out this particular work of his is a blending of a sermon of his (I think it is this one at the 1:27:00 mark of this episode here) with some written language (p. 1). Nevertheless, it is still worthy of review.
The book’s structure is rather self-explanatory; each indictment represents a chapter in this book. Furthermore, each chapter starts with a Bible verse or more as its heading introduction. The chapters are not arranged in any particular grouping. The first five deal with God, man, the Scriptures and Jesus Christ. The second five mainly deal with the church, family and pastors. This is a rather short book (78 pages).
Washer’s book comes with a warning. He states, “The question you must answer is this: Is what I am saying true, whether or not it is delivered through a faulty messenger?” (p. 3). This is an excellent question that should be asked by any pastor, preacher, conference speaker, book reviewer, etc.. In fact, I will use that question as the basis for evaluating this book.
The ten indictments Washer gives are spot-on. In no particular order, these include unbiblical gospel invitations, lack of church discipline, silence on separation, malnourished pastors (as it pertains to knowledge of Scripture), failing to address man’s malady, replacement of the Scriptures regarding the family, far-reaching ignorance (regarding God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the nature of the church) and a denial of Sola Scriptura (p. v). A church I had attended for a very long time (2008-2019) demonstrated much if not all of these indictments as time progressed. It was not until I came across Pastor Chris Rosebrough’s Fighting For The Faith program in 2017 that I began to see these indictments for the indictments that they are. This church I attended is far from the only church demonstrating those indictments.
The first two chapters address a practical denial of the sufficiency of Scripture and an ignorance of God (pp. 1-12). Washer took a direction I did not expect as he addressed the denial of Scripture’s sufficiency; he addressed the social sciences and cultural studies that have infiltrated the church (pp. 9-10). While I don’t believe he is wrong there, I would have thought he would have added some stuff on those who claim direct revelation from God. People like Priscilla Shirer and the late Jerry Falwell Senior have done such a thing. Nevertheless, Washer’s chapter was solid. Washer is also spot-on when he asks, “When was the last time you attended a conference on the attributes of God?” (p. 15). Conferences these days (which are not happening much these days, if at all, due to COVID-19) focus on healing, leadership and other topics that do not primarily focus on God. Thankfully, others focus on meaty subjects (i.e., exposing deception).
Chapters 3-5 mainly focus on the Gospel or some aspect of it (pp. 17-42). Washer notes how preachers make a “twofold son of hell” when they “walk into a church building and talk to people, give them three exploratory questions, and ask them if they want to pray a prayer and ask Jesus to come into their heart” (p. 19). I have heard Washer say in a sermon that such a practice is neither biblical nor historical, and he is right. Jesus said, “Repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:16), not, “Who would like to ask Me into their heart?” In the book, Washer goes on to state that many preachers of America and Western countries are Gospel ignorant (p. 23). Based on my reading of false teacher Rick Warren and of the many sermon reviews of BAD sermons that Pastor Chris Rosebrough has done, I would have to state Washer is once again correct. This Gospel ignorance has to be a reason why so many Gospel invitations are unbiblical (pp. 33-42). Washer does an excellent job of comparing the unbiblical gospel invitation with a biblical one. Specifically, he refutes the shallow, ear-scratching biblical evangelism by appealing to Scripture and the nature of God and the Holy Spirit (pp. 33-36). He also makes the important point that anyone that gets saved via the shallow methodology he refutes gets saved despite the methodology and not because of it (p. 37).
Chapters six and seven pertain in one way or another to the church (pp. 43-58). Washer makes an incredible point by stating the following on page 45:
Today, because of the lack of biblical preaching, the so-called church is filled with carnal, wicked people identified with Christianity. And then, because of all the goats in the midst of the lambs, the lambs are blamed for all the things the goats are doing. And then the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of us (Romans 2:24).
Washer once again is speaking truth here. If you don’t believe it, that is fine. However, consider the plethora of bad sermons Pastor Chris Rosebrough has reviewed on his program Fighting For The Faith. Consider the videos and articles Steven Kozar of The Messed Up Church has done on the things happening in modern evangelicalism. Consider the plethora of articles that Anthony Wade of 828 Ministries has done on the seeker-driven movement. Finally, consider at the 45 minute mark of this episode here how a gentleman by the name of Marcus Pittman was escorted out of a megachurch for preaching the biblical Gospel. Washer is not making stuff up here. While he does not go into detail on the evidence of it all (mind you again this book is a sermon with some written language mixed in), there is evidence nonetheless.
Washer addresses the concept of church discipline in chapter seven (pp. 53-57). He rightly goes to the Matthew 18 text to explain the concept. eE also points out it was Jesus who implemented this (Matthew 18:15-20). Most importantly, Washer explains he himself needs church discipline (p. 56). It was actually this concept that was one of many reasons that I left the aforementioned church I attended for a while for a different non-denominational church that does practice church discipline. In about eleven years of attending my former church (2008-2019), I never once saw church discipline take place. I am not sure anyone else did either (as in, matters brought before the church). I could be wrong, though.
In chapter eight, Washer addresses yet another important concept; that concept is holiness (pp. 59-63). Washer appeals to such Scriptures as 2 Corinthians 6:14-17, Romans 12:1-2, Matthew 12:33, and Romans 9:13 to explain how Scripture is not silent on the concept of holiness (pp. 59-63). He also briefly explains the doctrine of regeneration in explaining how God works in a man who is His child (pp. 59-60). Separation from the world does occur (p. 63).
In chapter nine, Washer addresses the replacement of the Scriptures as it pertains to the family (pp. 65-70). Washer explains how rearing a family according to Scripture is so important (pp. 65-66). The following paragraph (among many) is noteworthy (p. 66):
What does it matter if a man wins the whole world and loses his family? Let me put it to you this way: On what basis on you rearing your children and loving your wife? On what is your family grounded? If you cannot start going into the Scriptures and showing me how your family is founded on it, I can almost assure you that you are a captive to psychology, sociology, and the whims and lies of this age. You see, you do not have the right to follow all these other things. You have no authority apart from the Word of God.
Washer then appeals to such texts as Genesis 18:19, Romans 12:1-2 and Proverbs 13:20 to back his point of how the father is to lead the home in teaching his family and children (pp. 66-68). I’ve been married for over eight years. I have no children. One of my major sins (and I have many) in my marriage is not establishing a time of teaching Scripture to my wife (this even extends to when she was my girlfriend and fiancee). I send her Scriptures via phone present day. My prayer is that I haven’t damaged our marriage so badly that I will never have the opportunity to teach her or any kids we may be blessed to have. Needless to say, this chapter from Washer is a very important one. It’s a reason to pray for all the Christian dads out there.
Washer concludes the book with a chapter on pastors that are malnourished in the word of God (pp. 71-78). He spends most of the chapter going through 1 Timothy 4:1-16. The text reads as follows (NASB):
4 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3 menwho forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
6 In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. 7 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;8 for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
11 Prescribe and teach these things. 12 Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. 15 Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
The text is an excellent one (as is all of Scripture). Washer ends the book with a bang and quite the motivational conclusion. Here are some noteworthy paragraphs:
Discipline yourself to prayer. Discipline yourself to the systematic reading of Scrtipure from Genesis to Revelation over and over and over again. Discipline yourself in your speech. Discipline yourself in the company you keep. Discipline yourself in when you go to bed and when you rise up. This is a war. Discipline yourself!p. 74
While you are a young man, while there is strength in you, labor with all your might. Take those stupid video games of yours and crush them under your feet. Throw the TV out the window. You were made for greater things than these. if you are a child of the King, nothing on this earth can satisfy you — nothing! “These things command and teach” (v. 11).p. 76
We are men of God. We are ministers of the Most High. There should be an “otherness” about us. We should have a distant gaze in our eyes toward a distant star. The greatest thing we can do for our people is to be men of God, absorbed in the things of God, so that when we open our mouths the Word of God comes out.p. 77
If that does not get the Christian (and only the Christian per such a text as Hebrews 11:6) motivated to want to bear fruit for God, I do not know what will. In fact, after I read the paragraph I cited on page 76, I immediately deleted my “Words With Friends” game. While I believe the TV can serve a good purpose (i.e., to watch excellent documentaries such as American Gospel or excellent sources such as Fighting For The Faith on Youtube), the TV can and often does consume lives (as it has mine in the past, but I’m speaking only from experience, not for everybody). I believe strong discipline is necessary to both use the TV well and to be so absorbed in the Word of God that it just comes out (or as I have heard one preacher say, you bleed Bible if someone was to cut you). I have employed strong discipline in my sleeping habits. For almost the last two years, I have made strong efforts to both keep my sleep/awake times consistent and sleep eight hours a day (that practice came from listening to a message from the CD Drive By Biblical Counseling). This type of discipline has really helped my overall state.
Let me state Washer’s warning from the beginning of this review one more time:
“The question you must answer is this: Is what I am saying true, whether or not it is delivered through a faulty messenger?”p. 3
That answer is a definitive yes. Washer’s ten indictments are absolutely spot on. This brilliant combination of a sermon and written language makes this short but meaty book an absolute keeper. Moreover, it represents reasons to pray for the modern church. If you’re looking for a short but meaty book that delivers an absolute gut-punch, snag this one from Washer. It’s a keeper.
NOTE: I tweeted this review, tagging Paul Washer in the process.