There is an old danger in new clothes that is hiding under the surface of the landscape of Christianity. This old threat stands as a new obstacle in the already difficult charge of Spiritual leadership. From the catch phrase on being “culturally relevant” to the rebellion against normal Biblical traditions, we see the Rehoboam Syndrome permeating our churches, and our society at large.
In first kings 12:8 the Bible tells us that when Rehoboam was king and looked for sound advice that ” . . . he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:”
I guess the reality has always been that young people think that older people are idiots. But even within the Christian landscape we perpetually see young pastors, preachers, and Christians in general, reject the leadings and advice of the older and more experienced Christians. For whatever reason, some young men seem to be bent on being chique, and cool, and in their words, “relevant” to the culture.
I do not consider myself to be a fuddy dud at all. What I do consider is the fact that the issue is not now, nor has it ever been making the Bible relevant to the culture, but calling the culture to become relevant to the Bible. There is a false ideology out there somewhere that has the idea that if we take Jesus, put square rimmed glasses on him, mess up his hair a little bit, put him in a graphic T with flourishes all over it, and have him use the latest lingo, then and only then will we people flock to our churches like t-shirt venders to a NASCAR Race.
The Greek word for that is Bologny.
Now I don’t come within fifty miles of saying that everyone has to dress in the 1950’s, part their hair to one side, and use only black Bibles. I am not speaking of flavors and tastes of fashion. I am speaking to the idea that the younger generation, and I’m still in it (38), knows more about getting the gospel into people than the older generation does. Personally I get very tired of hearing “what used to work just doesn’t work in this era.” Who said anything about “what works.” I’m not now, nor will I anymore be more interested in what works than I am in what is right.
The fact is that what is right does not always work. At least by our definition of “work.” The truth is that what is right often drives more people away from the gospel than brings them to it. Now I am not saying that we are to be “tactless truth bullies” who can no more lovingly walk someone down the road to Christ, than Howard Stern’s script writer. I am talking about learning how to preach the gospel, teach the truth, and minister to people, from the people who have gone further down the road that we have, and put to use the Biblical methods.
I do not accept the concept that only the message is Biblical, but the method doesn’t have to be. I know what people mean when they say that, but the reality is that the method is to be as Biblical as the message. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”1 Cor 1:21.
The longer I go, the more I am convinced that every generation IS the same. Same problems, same dilemmas, same difficulties, just different dressings. I don’t have any doubt how the WWII generation would have handled 9/11. There is still no Japanese Temple at Pearl Harbor, nor has one ever been debated. When I think about todays “young leaders” and their “talk show stages” and “tractor pull meets gangsta” apparell I wonder how Vance Havner, W.A. Criswell, and R.G. Lee would have spoken to today’s trends. Some guys come out of seminaries now, unwilling, and unable to pastor “small churches.” Their talents need to be seen by the entire world. I know this, because I thought this. I was a legend in my own mind, and when someone tried to tell me that so-and-so were pillars in the church, I bought the lie that “all pillars do is hold things up.”
Praise the Lord they did. I thank God for seasoned older men who put up with me, tolerated my arrogance, and ignorance, and self centeredness. They gently but firmly withstood my foolishness, and lovingly encouraged me whenever this blind squirrel found an acorn. If I learned anything, I’ve learned that I need that generation of men to come back and walk me through this Ministry 101 thing again. The more I learn the less I know.
I also see this syndrome saturating philosophies of theology. I hear, and read of people talking about how “others merely see things differently” when it comes to doctrinal disagreements. As I have said on this blog post many times, people today cringe at anyone who has settled doctrinal certainty, and will not use the phrase, “in my opinion.”
There are many things that are merely “in my opinion”, but not nearly as many as some want me to admit. Not because I am younger and know more, but because the generation before me taught me what to think about particular scripture, explained it, and settled it to be debated no more. There are so called conservative preachers and teachers coming out of the wood works, and falling out of the sky, that want to “unsettle” every “settled” thing, stand solid on nothing, be soft about everything, and say nothing for absolutely sure.
When did our Baptist forefathers, and solid settled Christian leaders of yesterday lose their minds? When did the lost culture have greater spiritual insight on spreading the gospel than the old fashioned Bible believing preaching giants of yesterday? I am reminded of Jeremiah the prophet who called to His people and proclaimed to them “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. ”
Oh, for more Havner’s, Rogers, Criswells, Lee’s, Bogards. Were todays young men to heed their counsels and their guidances, it would be a wonderful change worth making.