Coleman Luck’s Take on the American Church

Coleman Luck
Coleman Luck

Coleman Luck is a Hollywood writer, producer, and creator of one of my favorite 1980’s TV shows, The Equalizer.  I loved that show. I loved it for it subtlety, its honorable and heroic efforts on the part of the oppressed and the underdog. I loved it for its redemptive themes and for its commitment to making its audience think. I loved it for its raw sense of justice. I loved it for its lead actor, Edward Woodward, and the tortured past of the character he played and his own struggle for meaning and redemption. And I loved it for the Christian worldview that would leak out in various plot lines.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned that the creator and writer of the show was a believer in Christ and the son of a Moody Bible Institute professor–author of one of reference works on my shelf.

Yesterday, Coleman, who is always thinking and writing challenging things on Facebook, wrote something that I asked his permission to reproduce here on the BLOG. Coleman is a Facebook friend but more than that, he is a brother in Christ whose integrity and courage I admire. Here’s his take on the American church. I think it is, unfortunately, spot on. Coleman’s view of the state of the church doesn’t cause me despair but it does call the church to significant repentance and reaffirmation of our call to be disciples, students, and passionate followers of Christ and His word.

Coleman’s words follow. The bold emphasizes and the bracketed comment in it are mine.

When Ignorance is Blessed

As I look back on my life, I can say that I have known many gifted, brilliant people. I have known business leaders, artists, scientists, scholars in many disciplines, true intellectuals. Having known people like that, I know something else as well. I don’t fit into that category of human. That isn’t false humility. Hollywood writers and producers are not known for false humility. It’s just the truth. Here’s something else that’s true. Of the many brilliant people I have known, I can say that the most intelligent of them in all of these fields have been Christians. That isn’t to say that there aren’t many brilliant people who aren’t Christians. It’s just my experience after 70 years of life. And I’m glad for it. I wish I could introduce my many non-Christian friends to some of these outstanding Christians. It might jar them out of their stereotypes.

But, sadly, there’s something else I have to say as well. Some of the blindest, most foolish and ignorant people I have ever known have also been Christians. Now all of us are ignorant about one thing or another. With me there are many points of glittering ignorance. Mathematics is a good example. When I took the Graduate Record Exam in math many years ago my advisor said, “Coleman, they give you this many points for signing your name.” When you know you are ignorant about something and the subject is important in your life, it means you have to study. It sounds ignorant, but I don’t study math because my phone has a calculator. Reading about brilliant mathematicians is enough.

Edward Woodward
Edward Woodward as Robert McCall in The Equalizer

No matter what you believe, wouldn’t you agree that there is one subject Christians should not be ignorant about and that subject is the Bible?

If you say you are a Christian, seriously studying the Bible should be a core activity from your earliest childhood all the way until you are dithering, mindlessly around a nursing home.

You can study the Bible your entire life and constantly discover new things. And the Bible itself tells Christians to study it. II Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that doesn’t need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (That’s carved on my father’s tombstone, by the way. It was his life verse.)

But, all of that said, in the entire history of the church, has there ever been a time when there was more Biblical illiteracy among Christians than there is in America right now? I don’t think so. Even in the so-called dark ages when people were actually illiterate, they knew the Bible better than so many Christians in 21st century America because the Church taught them. What is a major reason for this terrible ignorance today? From pastors on down, very little serious Bible study is taking place. Christians don’t know how to study the Bible and Biblical preaching is a lost art.

Christians are famous for complaining about the public education system. “The kids aren’t being taught the basics. They’re being taught ‘new math’, etc.” Yet, many of those Christian parents who complain the loudest show little concern for the Biblical education and literacy of their children. They are ignorant of the Bible, their children know even less, and they aren’t worried about it. They should be.

Through the centuries, the church has played an important role in the Biblical education of children. When I was a young man, churches sent out buses to collect kids from the neighborhood to go to Sunday School. But Sunday Schools are a thing of the past and where they do exist, they’re more like Bible craft time and babysitting. Little formal education takes place. This has been going on for a long time. Little wonder that so many young people are leaving the church. Sow to the wind, reap to the whirlwind.

Recently, I talked to a woman who went to a Sunday School teachers meeting at her evangelical church. In that meeting the person in charge of this ministry said about the children of the church, “We don’t want a bunch of little Bible scholars running around.” Someone else in the meeting piped up, “Yes, I know someone who knows the Scripture really well and he’s a pornographer.” The leader also said, “It’s not our responsibility to teach the kids the Bible, it’s their parents’”.

What can you say in the face of such amazing statements? The first thing to say is, get out of that church and don’t go back. In churches where there isn’t this attitude, for the sake of the children, stand against spiritual ignorance and Biblical illiteracy.

Demand that the church actually follow a curriculum in the Sunday School that builds Biblical literacy year after year. [I would add, “demand it from your pulpit as well.”]

Demand that the church train their teachers. And, of course, if you are a parent, teach your children at home by word and deed. I believe that the greatest curse on America has been the failure of the Christian church to carry out her responsibilities. And most of all, we have failed the children.

Let he who has ears, hear what Coleman (and the Spirit of God, I think) says to the churches of America.

3 thoughts on “Coleman Luck’s Take on the American Church

  1. Marty? I’m going to be a nitpicker here – it’s Robert McCall, not Thomas.

    I too think the world of Coleman though we differ on some things. He stands firmly in his beliefs, and he is always willing to be a friend.


  2. Hi Marty,

    Thanks. Some folks get upset when I nitpick – my family has teachers and specifically English teachers, so some errors are tiny but like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Glad you saw it for the suggestion it was.

    Ironically, I was running late to Sunday School and church when I followed the link here and skimmed the article. I have questions now.

    I’m interested in hearing your specifics: what you don’t like, what you want changed, and how you’d do so. I’ve taught kids in Sunday School and variations of “Kid’s Church” ever since I was a teenager and before, and that was many decades ago. Currently being a lead teacher in kindergarten, which I’ve done for four years as of last Tuesday. Frankly, yesterday’s class was a mess, much of which I’m blaming on the weather, because even my calm, cool, and collected kids were wild; most of the kids calmed down after it finally rained.

    I’m always interested in new ideas and different things to do with the kids, especially so since I now have 2nd hour after the two classes were combined into one; I may have 5 to 8 to 15 kids. I have help, thankfully, but aside from my two regular men, the others rotate, and sometimes don’t show.

    But enough background and set-up.

    From the above, I am assuming that crafts and sheets and games, no matter how Bible based, are not your cup of tea. Fair enough. I don’t, however, think you’re suggesting that we take children who can’t read yet, or don’t read well enough that they are not embarrassed to do so in public, and have them read or attempt to read from the Bible, whichever version the church chooses.

    I agree that they can learn about the Old Testament vs. the New, at least begin to learn the books of the Bible and so forth. And no, we don’t do enough of that in class. We combined in mid-year, and I switched to second hour, so there’s not been a lot of continuity and structure for this group.

    So. Give me specifics, suggestions, goals, breakdowns, links, please, etc. Where would you see kindergartners, for example, in the scheme of things? If you had free reign in a church’s Sunday School system, how would you overhaul it?

    Please feel free to add in suggestions for other ages as well.

    One of our friends has taught fifth grade Sunday School for years, and writes for the national curriculum that we are currently using, and others. I will pass any of those suggestions to her. My mother teaches adult special needs, and a class of senior ladies. I have a special needs child in my class, and will have another the year after next. My team leader and current children’s department head are also very approachable, and used to me emailing them with things I’ve found. We’re between children’s ministers right now, but our new person is supposed to come in mid-July. I have heard good things about him.

    So anything you suggest will be happily shared.

    If you ask, I’ll tell you what curriculum we use, but I don’t want to bias you either way. I want this to be more of a conversation.

    I’m looking forward to an interesting exchange.



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