“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9
One of the most wonderful things about God’s work in our lives is the fact that He gave us a mind . . . and then told us what to think. He created us with a capacity to reason, think, interpret and analyze, and then told us how to use it. Far too many Christians have the idea that since God has given us a mind to think with, and a capacity to reason, that He “turned us loose” and that somehow we have the “intellectual freedom” to think outside the Book. It is just such thinking that has caused many to trade what’s right for what works.
I recently read a news article about a well-known pastor and preacher who had endured a great amount of personal family difficulty and struggle. While not the main point of the article, one aspect of it, highlighted his journey from sort of an “old fashioned” Biblical theology to a more contemporary view of how to do “church.” The end result was a plain simple rejection of all things pertaining to the traditional practices and views of the church.
Of course this is the norm for today. Rejecting all things traditional, and embracing a sort of “cool Christianity” is in the seventh inning of a ten inning game. (Meaning that it is no longer a new trend.) The traditional setting for church and how to “do” it, must obviously be in need of fixing, because everyone is trying to do just that.
Now don’t get the idea that “new things” are wrong and contemporary expression is evil. As long as there are new Christians, there will be “new Christian songs.” As long as there are new generations of people coming to know Jesus, each generation will utilize the tools of their day in the ministry of their day, there is nothing unbiblical about that.
However one of the problems of our day is not the “rejection of the traditional church setting;” nor is it the intertwining of “worldly” culture with a Christian culture; it is the reasoning that many are giving for it. When I read that people are embracing “new ways” to do church because the old way, “doesn’t work anymore”, I cannot help but put two feet on the brakes and say we have a serious problem. While there is no power in “tradition”, and no reason to keep something for traditions sake, whether something “works” or “doesn’t work” is a theological test for nothing.
Over and over again, we hear how lost people are not attracted to the traditional church anymore. For the sake of this article and argument, I’m going to use “traditional church” in its best light. I know that traditions mean nothing in and of themselves, however for the sake of argument I want to use the idea of a good traditional church setting doing all things 1.) In spirit, 2.) in truth, 3.) decently and 4.) in order; and then state some things.
1st – Lost people are not to be attracted to the church. – It has never been the goal of the church to be a magnet in which lost people like to come to. The audience of the Sunday service is not the congregation it is the King of Kings, and in fact when all things are pointed in the right direction, lost people will not feel comfortable. Ideally the lost are to be won Monday through Saturday, baptized on Sunday and spend the rest of their life learning to love and worship the Lord. Too many times we have substituted inviting people to Jesus, for inviting people to church. Yes, we want lost people to come to church, but more than that, we want the audience of the church service to be the Lord Jesus, and so we are to let Him be our guide.
2nd – We do not always know what constitutes “something working.” – One time the pastor of a very large church was asked by another pastor, “how big is your church?” He replied, “I don’t know and you don’t either. You can tell how big your crowd is, but that doesn’t mean you know how big your church is.” The truth is that we don’t always know “what works” and the fact is that sometimes, doing what’s right is counterproductive to what we think “works.” Sometimes I look at all the shiny new ideas and listen to all of the new young “leaders” and come away thinking that all they’re trying to do is take the “foolishness” out of Christianity. I’m most definitely not for being stupid on purpose or mocking the integrity of the ministry. But the Biblical account is very straightforward. “God chose the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.” “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness.” “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Any idea that we can take the “foolishness” out of the ministry and still call it Biblical ministry is not letting the scriptures do the thinking for us.
It is imperative that we learn to stop thinking outside the Book. Someone once accused Adrian Rogers of trying to set the church back fifty years, and he replied, “no, I’d like to set it back 2000 years.” When we begin “reasoning” our way along on the back of “what works” it will not be long before we have forfeited what is right. Does that mean that methods and ideas don’t need to change from time to time, not at all. However the reasoning for such changes should always be supported by the Word. The Bible is not an impractical book nor does it forbid impractical reasoning. The main point that I am trying to make is that we are to be taking our cues from the Spirit and the Scriptures, and not from the culture. Letting the culture be our guide is not a change worth making.