Change and the Church
When discussing the issue of change as it relates to the church, I wonder what has to change and why. The word "culture" keeps coming up in all the discussions. I hear that the culture around us is changing and we need to change to be able to minister in today's culture.
I have a problem with that line of thinking. My problem is that we are letting the world around us dictate what we do and how we do it. I have always believed that what and how the church conducts itself is to be governed by the Word of God and not the world in which we live. The evangelicals of the '70s and '80 s used that line of thinking and failed miserably at influencing the culture. In fact they became part of the culture as they lost any possibility of having a positive influence for Christ.
The more we become like the world around us, the less influence we have. Yes our numbers go up in our services but at what cost? The real question is who is influencing who? What we lose is our distinctiveness. No longer does one's faith make a difference in the life we live and we deny the Biblical teaching on separation by no longer living transformed lives. How can we adapt to today's culture without denying what scripture teaches us in passages like 2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 12:1 - 2, 1 John 2:15 - 17 and 2 Corinthians 6:14 -18?
What I hear being said in our churches goes something like this: "we are a fellowship of churches based upon our beliefs while we may differ in methodology." Now some of that has validity but on the other hand there an underlying danger because it suggest that beliefs can be separated from methodology. Sooner or later methodology will dictate what we believe unless we consistently regulate methodology by the teaching of the Word of God.
Three final thoughts for all to consider:
First, I believe the more we are distinct from the world, the more we have to offer to a lost world. If the world sees Christians and their worship as being no different, what reason do they have to become a Christian? I am not advocating isolationism nor becoming like the Amish but living and worshipping as guided by the Word of God and not by the culture around us. As an example, if the music of the world is good enough for worship, why aren't the other practices of the world's culture? When you bring the music of the world into the church, you are bringing with it the entire culture. It will change the church but not for good.
Second, a comment by a noted evangelical as he criticized the evangelical trends of the '70s and '80s. Richard Quebedeaux in his book The Worldly Evangelicals writes, "...the influence of the wider culture on the contemporary evangelical movement has been nothing less than staggering. Marty is correct in declaring that the evangelicals are making more and more compromises with the larger culture...In the course of establishing respectability in the eyes of the wider society, the evangelicals have become harder and harder to distinguish from other people..." He goes on to say eventually this adaptation to the culture of the day changed their message and their views on evangelism. The church is suppose to be in the world not the world in the church. The former is biblical and the later is disaster. Question: Is there any real difference between the music of a rock concert and some of today's worship music? Who is influencing who? .
Thirdly, the underlying principle of the world is to focus on the 18 - 34 year olds. TV programs live and die on how they rate with this age group. All advertising is directed at them. Has this thinking influenced the church? Many churches today gear their whole ministry to this age group. One pastor in New York in essence stated from the pulpit that our ministry is geared to the 18 - 34 age group and everybody needs to adjust to this emphasis. Who's influencing who? Isn't this showing respect of persons which God commands us not to do? [James 2; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9]
Suggested Reading Material 3 books by Gary E. Gilley
1. This Little Church Went to Market
2. This Little Church Stayed Home
3. This Little Church Had None