I read an email sent by the NJ Family Policy Council one day before the NJ Supreme Court rendered a decision on the homosexual issue of same-sex marriage. Just a couple of months ago, the pro-homosexual marriage and anti-homosexual marriage groups were demonstrating on the steps of the Statehouse in Trenton. My wife, who is a New Jerseyite, reminds me that from all the places that I have stayed, this is the state that I have lived the longest, and unless the Rapture is coming, I will be buried in this state (in the Hancock family plot). I started my ordained ministry here in Hightstown (1977-1982) and have been back in the state since 1990. Three of our kids have been born in New Jersey - the other one in the land of Lincoln, Illinois. As one who teaches American Church history, I am fascinated by New Jersey. I have been asking many people of Atlantic Highlands to tell me what they think a street called Auditorium was in the past. I think thus far only two people were able to tell me that at one point Auditorium Street was the place of revival meetings here in Atlantic Highlands. I am fascinated by the great Methodist tradition of Ocean Grove and how that has affected New Jersey. Even though, sadly, one of the Rutgers University presidents called the New Brunswick Theological Seminary "the hole in the Rutgers campus'', it was two Reformed ministers from New Brunswick who were at the beginning of the Great Revival that swept the East and New England. (Recently there have been some improvements and the New Brunswick Theological Seminary president has called the New Brunswick Theological Seminary the heart in the Rutgers' campus). When the Philadelphia Baptist Association was formed it was made up of three churches from New Jersey and two from Philadelphia, and among the three was the Old First of Middletown. For a short time the president of Princeton University was Jonathan Edwards, considered by many the most erudite theologian of America. New Jersey has had a glorious spiritual past. God has moved in mighty ways in this state and He can do it again. When I go up north on the Parkway and I look from the Driscoll Bridge I am encouraged by the activity that goes on at the nearby church (International Fellowship). I travel to Columbus and I see another great church develop in the cornfields. I travel to Somerset county and I see another church growing by leaps and bounds. I am also aware that the work of God grows in thousands of smaller churches that one does not see from the highways. A Baptist friend of mine jokes that we Baptists are in the shadow of the Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals. I listen to Bishop Smith preach and I enjoy tremendously what he says in his homilies. Yet a friend of mine who is a priest tells me that he does not wear the collar at a mall because of the hateful looks that he receives from the people. I am told that the Hispanic speaking people are all Catholic and very conservative, yet when I talk with the young people in Monmouth county I find out that being married is a thing of the past. I was talking with one young husband and he listed all the males that he knew and could not find another male besides himself being married. I have come to the conclusion that as in the 18th century, so in the 21st century, we are in need of a revival. The Baptists, the Catholics, the Methodists, the Presbyterians - all of us are in need of a great revival. As I view the scene I remember the sermon of Gilbert Tennent, preached before the New Brunswick Presbytery in 1740, "The Danger of Unconverted Clergy." When I saw the picture on the Internet of the Lutheran minister Robert Kreisat and his partner of 37 years, Mr. Edward Mather, celebrate the court ruling for same-sex marriage, this title spoke to me with a new force. Many people looking at this picture would conclude that if ministers who know the Scriptures are for gay marriage, then Scripture must approve it. Yet, the Bible condemns it. The second thing that I've concluded is that we need to proclaim the Word of God with the authority that comes from God Himself. Instead of relying on statistics, illustrations, and social sciences, which all have their place, we as Pastors should preach what God says. We should preach expecting God to do what He promises. The human heart is desperately wicked (not good, as some people would like to believe) and only God can change it (see Jer. 17:9). Let us preach and teach expecting God to do mighty works everywhere, and even here on the East Coast in the state of New Jersey.
The State of New Jersey
- Written by George Hancock-Stefan
- Category: Pastor's Corner