Should the church fear change?
The critical mass for a church to make it is 130 people (so the experts say). It can’t sit at that number too long. Many churches flirt with that number most of their existence. Much of the time the lower numbers are the result of all sorts of push back by denominational zealots in an attempt to avoid taking a different direction than the forefathers did back in 1706-ish.
I remember reading David Fisher’s The 21st Century Pastor and hardly believing what people were capable of when battling change in their church.
Truth is, I’ve been there before. As soon as you mention to a group of traditionalists that they need to change, you become the enemy. The smiles turn into frowns and glares. Literally, most traditionalists would rather the church doors close as a traditional ___________ congregation than see change and watch the numbers bloom.
I call it the “Club Mentality”.
They belong to a club.
I remember working for a church that’s prestige was found in the denominational shirt and jacket, not in holiness. I kid you not. You knew you had arrived as a ___________ if you sported the outfit.
Yet another church told me that they liked their numbers and weren’t interested in growing (even though numbers were on a steady decline). With what I would consider a “righteous anger”, I told the council that I had the answer to this problem. I told them I needed to take that size eleven of mine and drive it up the council’s hind-end in an attempt to wake them out of their spiritual coma. Really, I said that. The shocked searing stares branded me an outsider from that moment on. Not to compare myself to Jesus, but that was my whip with which to go after the moneychangers that day.
Let’s just be frank, the Club Mentality is absolutely opposed to Jesus. Jesus time as the God-man on earth was riddled with giving the smack-down to those who would turn faith into something caste-like or exclusive. It made Him vomit; it makes Him vomit!
Paul in the New Testament openly condemned such thoughts of spiritual superiority within the Christian Church, in 1 Corinthians 1. This kind of thinking causes us to misidentify ourselves as “Paulians” or “Appolosians” rather than Christians.
Sure, we identify with certain doctrines and creeds, but do we really feel other believers are that afar off from Jesus that we need to identify ourselves as not from that other camp instead of identifying ourselves as a part of the Body of Jesus Christ?
Deal breakers; Deal makers
There are Christian issues that are deal breakers and likewise, deal makers.
Deal makers are found in abundance in the Nicene Creed:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic (universal) and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Deal breakers could be issues directly opposing elements in the Creed above or those that hack away at biblical integrity. Each element in the Nicene ties in with another truth in the creed and is recognized as orthodox (straight-lace) Christian doctrine (straight out of the Bible). These are doctrines we should champion, defend and aggressively argue.
But some may say, “What about issues such as abortion or Gay marriage?” Contrary to what flavor of the day Joe-pop-Theologian insists, issues such as these are so blatantly spoken against in a correct exegesis of the scriptures, they really should not even make it to the debate table of Bible believing Christians.
Remember that the Bible is sixty-six books of the words of Christ, and are meant to change the sin in each culture, not be changed by that culture. This includes ecclesiastical cultures as well!
If you find yourself disassociating from other Christians because of issues that fall outside of the heretical, it’s time to ask yourself, “Am I a follower of Jesus, or am I a club member. Am I a Christian, or am I a __(denomination here)__?”
Modernization, a biblical principle
Lets swing back to the first question asked, “Should the Church fear change?”
Since we now see that the most important attempts are to hold to biblical integrity and orthodox Christian doctrine (no matter what denomination we find ourselves in), what do we have to fear in change?
A lesson from the past
1 Corinthians 9:20,
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
I’m sorry folks, there is no other way to read this.
Jesus Christ, through Paul, is telling you to take your talents, take your churches and get current into the local culture.
Reformer Martin Luther knew this.
It was the ecclesiastical period of “Pope Leo”. Fear-mongering Catholic arts groups were sent out to sell indulgences in order to spring your suffering dead Aunt Mabel from purgatory. St Petersburg in all its envisioned opulence had to be finished somehow and Leo spent like a Rap Star.
Luther and other reformers immediately put the Guttenberg printing press to work (a definite modernity), printing protestant tracts and Bibles in German. Criticisms of Rome were printed out and dispersed among the public. Reformers sent the most modern music and drama groups out to preach the Gospel, free of charge. They were bringing the “latest” to a medieval world for the sake of winning Christ, and nothing more.
Caught in a subculture
With words removed, Christian music was identifiable to Joe-heathen simply by its style, as “Christian”, in a study done some four years-ish ago. This is a classic example of what some call the Christianese.
If raised in a church, you know what I’m talking about. Christians have their own catchwords and accepted Christian music groups (acceptable if approved by those over 80). You really should wear a suit on Sunday (didn’t Jesus wear a suit everywhere He went?). The more uncomfortable you are, the closer to Jesus you get.
Attitudes as such, are rarely challenged within the church walls.
I remember my poor old deluded granny telling us youngsters that music with a beat was from Satan. After reading the instrument lists in the Old Testament, I believe that if granny was right, all the ancient Hebrews are now being charbroiled like Whoppers in Hell (with the Gaithers playing in the background for extra punishment).
Wolves among the sheep
Admittedly the past and present have given us a somewhat lengthy list of snakes: those who have slithered their ways between the door cracks and into the sanctuary, all in the name of being cutting edge. But this has almost always been the result of someone going soft on scripture.
Postmodern interpretations of God’s very words cast doubt on sin. Who in their right mind would ask The World to translate the Holy Scriptures? And yet that is the form in which most attacks on scripture begin.
To witness the twisted results when attempting to become incarnate in the local culture, look no further than to the Jesuits of the distant past in South America and their mix of Catholicism and tribal witchcraft. Observe the Word of Faith movement that has fused with the New Age ideologies of the power within and has subsequently become the spitting image of the Indian Kundalini cults. And how about the tortoise-shell, spectacle-wearing picture of Christian modernity himself, Rob Bell. Rob and his wife now work for Oprah, affirm gay marriage and declare the New Testament books to be nothing more than a bunch of letters.
All of these people had a desire to bring the New to Christianity and then to the World. This was a good thing in the beginning. However, big problems arose when each of the mentioned decided that the Bible in itself wasn’t enough and syncretism took hold.
Then all Hell broke loose.
And this is a lesson to us: be modern but stay within the bounds of scripture.
Stagnancy is not progression; it’s regression, because the world around us keeps moving forward.
Keep in mind, this whole column was not written to obliterate old hymns and liturgies or other legitimate traditions. One has only to see the deep emotion, theological truth and honesty pouring out of some old hymns; real people and real faith.
As well, liturgies boldly proclaim without apology, the confessions of our faith in Christ every time they are read (a lesson some modern churches could learn).
But instead of being accompanied by a singular 150 year-old wind-up pipe organ, why not take a lesson from ancient Israel and incorporate other instruments (Psalm 150) into what is supposed to be worship?
Worship was not a quiet somber event in the Old Testament. It was loud, joyous, and it was, without a doubt, leaving yourself at the front door.
If you have a desire to modern up your church, perhaps consider these four thoughts:
- Make sure that whatever you want to do is for the Glory of God.
- If you are not sure whether what you want to do is right, leave it! Romans 14:23 says that if you don’t do it in faith, it’s sin. Not saying that God will not speak positively to you about it in the future, but for now, walk away.
- Don’t borrow from the devil. There is no such thing as Christianizing prostitution in the name of Jesus. You cannot be a serial killer for Christ. Some things no matter how modern, cannot be redeemed.
- Psalm 127:1 declares,
“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”
If you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God is asking you as a church leader, to encourage a modern Christian church (especially if you are a pastor) and the traditionalists start to leave (even after you show them the scriptural reasons for being “the Jew to the Jew”), be at peace. The above scripture assures us that God builds The Church, not the offerings of the unteachable.
If you step out in obedience for the sake of Christ, God will replace the bad fruit with good fruit.
After all, it’s God’s Church alone!
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.