In the average evangelical church, there is a spirit that seems to be controlling the discussion. It is not really a new trend, but more of a generation-long, growing force.
It may best be expressed by an almost militant response one might get when proposing “negative” biblical truth. Most church people today do not want to hear negatives. They want things to be positive and light. Robert Schuller, Norman Vincent Peale and Joel Osteen are all known for this positive gospel preaching.
This movement is coming from the pew as well as the pulpit. More and more leaders carefully guard their words when speaking on a topic that might create controversy. As if the bible can be preached without it.
We avoid friction like the plague. We have lifted “harmony” and “unity” like flags over our churches. Remove the cross and put up banners saying, “love, joy, peace”. And put a lamb on them or a dove. Let’s not limit ourselves or offend someone.
One very popular, mainstream, church-growth pastor has said that we should not make our churches like “exclusive clubs”. His words were in the context that the gospel message has been preached for millennia as an exclusive salvation. Jesus Christ only. The Bible only.
Note that one of the great benefits of the Reformation was to give us the clear message of Jesus Christ alone, by the Word of God alone, by Faith alone. Many “Christian” leaders today are ashamed of the “divisiveness” of the Reformation and are working to turn back history. This aggressive movement is not a paranoid delusion existing in the minds of legalistic bible people; it is a very real force in our midst.
BACK ON TRACK
OK. Back to the point. Any offense in our message or witness that we give, that is unnecessary, is wrong. Got it. Understand that. But we have become a generation of weeny believers. We are so worried about offending people that we are changing the gospel. Eliminating and softening the “hard parts”.
The Lord Jesus Christ did not do this. Somehow, we believe we are more sensitive and compassionate than He was! Seriously. We change what He said. Change how He said it. Eliminate stuff that we think is too hard for people to accept. We stay away from truth that might make us look like morons or bumpkins in the eyes of the academic and scientific communities. Avoid stuff that could get us kicked out of our Christian associations.
We are so worried about our reputations any more. Our acceptance by the world. By the young people. By the popular Christian media. We worry about being “relevant”. About being “cutting edge”. We avoid anything that looks “narrow” or “mean” or “unloving”. We need a truckload of hi- tech equipment to sing a song.
But that is a rant for another time.
We get into a group or association, get people into our church and even get people to make “decisions” for Christ. But, what if the message is not fully presented; if it is done under false pretenses? Should we not then legitimately question the fruit of the “decision” due to the lack of clear content in the message? We lack the clarity that is often obscured by our embracing-of and making-accommodations-with false religious teachers and groups.
EAT WHATEVER APPLE YOU PICK UP AND YOU MIGHT GET WORMS
But wait, we might be accused of being “fruit inspectors”.
Maybe, if we spent more time being faithful to God’s Word — doing God’s work in God’s way — we might not have to be so concerned with the fruit.
But wait, we might be accused of being like the Pharisees who criticized Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath day. We might be accused of being rigid in “the way we do church”.
I am really sick of the guys that say, “do church”. For my response to them, look up a very funny video on YouTube. Sorry, this newbie is having trouble getting that link in here. But punch in Bob Newhart Just Stop It and you will find it. It is worth your time.
They say, “Do you think that you are the only ones with the truth? Do you think you are you the only ones doing things right?”
It is tiring to deal with the obvious, automatic objections that have been used on us to justify “some new thing“. I can’t help thinking of the Lord commenting in Matthew 11:17. He spoke of those who would accuse others of not participating in their dance.
“And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced…“.
Well, maybe it was a stupid dance. Maybe it was a bad dance. And by what authority did they demand participation? Everyone expects us to do the dance. Be in harmony. Be in unity. Accept whatever new thing they throw at us. “Just shut up and dance”.
Several years ago, I saw a newspaper article quoting a local pastor who was well known in the Ohio area for his large church and its many franchises. He had carefully courted an association with a local state college and was well known for his young college-age congregation. Sort of a higher-class church for the intellectual crowd. He said that his strategy in preaching was to be “carefully soft”. Having listened to him many times, the true weight of that phrase falls in the “soft” part.
OSMOSIS IS A SCIENTIFIC TERM I WILL NOT EXPLAIN
We have accepted a kind of salvation-by-osmosis principle. Better to have access to people, regular association with them, opportunity to preach to them, than maintaining faithfulness to the Words of God. We trim our way “to seek love“, as Jeremiah said (Jer. 2:33). As if, our righteousness will rub off and they will come to Christ by our proximity. We wait to preach the truth believing that we can afford the risk. A risk based on “compassion” for the lost.
But at what point is the truth clearly preached? And who really ends up getting changed?
That is the Evangelical church today. We have accepted this deeply ingrained pattern and strategy. Few leaders fight against it. We just lack the “stones” to take a clear stand on truth. Not everyone; but most.
If you are not sure what “stones” means, get a KJV bible dictionary.
We have become pre-occupied with an aversion to doctrine. It is the new four-letter word for Christians. Even if a church attempts to lead a course in doctrine, it tends to be little more than a carefully selected surface survey of the stuff that they can safely get away with teaching. The least common denominator of truth that can be agreed on.
Not sure how many things the Lord was referring to when he said,
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of 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 alway, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:19,20)
After 3 long years, he probably just meant a couple of items. Maybe 5 or so? You know, the “majors versus the minors” that pastors keep referring to. Stuff everyone can basically agree on. Stuff the “seekers” like.
I heard a mainstream leader years ago answer some questions he was asked about the Promise Keepers movement. His answer was that the movement was hard to criticize on its surface. Who doesn’t want to be a better husband or father? How can you criticize a man for wanting to be a better man? Look at all the people coming together.
But he also said that the Promise Keepers, like the Charismatic movement, were more likely to leave a deeper, more far-reaching legacy than what they had intended to bring. In effect, their legacy would be “the denigration of doctrine“.
In other words, the diminishing of doctrinal truth for the cause of ________. Fill in the blank with something like harmony, unity, love. Even fill it in with massive numbers of “decisions” or souls coming forward. Fill it with whatever humanistic, social justice, evangelistic or spiritual cause we can justify making a compromise for. Results above method.
That is where we are. That is what we are battling. We are fighting for biblical authority and clarity. At the end of the day, this is what is at stake. If we fail to be the keepers of his Words, we will have nothing left.
Except maybe some potluck dinners. The desserts are best. Pasta salads can go from sublime to nasty. Avoid taco salad mystery mixes. Lethal.
We don’t have to be obnoxious; many Christians are. Sadly. We don’t have to be self-righteous; we are often that as well. We don’t have to engage in Systematic Theology for our preaching. Although, we have very little danger of that happening! We can’t even tolerate verse-by-verse preaching any more.
But we do have to be faithful to God’s Word. No trimming. Praying beforehand for the people we hope to reach. And preaching the “whole counsel of God”. Depending on the Spirit of God to do His work through us and others.We are not running a factory here. No assembly-line method.
Yeah, I know the church isn’t perfect. I know that I shouldn’t join it when I find it. But we are not talking about that. This goes deeper than the typical, automatic remarks people like to spew when you discuss church problems or criticize something. This is about spiritual survival and our duty as defenders of “the faith once delivered unto the saints“.
OK. This is a deep, heavy post. Many lighter one’s promised in the future.
Unless I am in a dark mood, of course.