As a Bible believer I claim to have only the Bible as my authority for faith and practice. That is the claim of the “groups” and “people” I associate with. So much of what I do, what my groups do is an actual denial of this claim. It is a frightening hypocrisy.
I received a pamphlet in the mail from Southwest Radio Ministries that was titled, “Is Your Church Going Purpose Driven? How Can You Tell?”. It was fear based and supported its points with traditional proofs and positions rather than the Bible.
It listed 24 signs that your church was going to hell in a hand basket. Of those 24, only 3 were Biblically solid warnings. Eleven of the points could be proof that things are headed in the wrong direction, or not. 10 of them were clearly an inability on the part of the author to differentiate between traditions and the scriptures. Some were quite comical.
I want to list the 3 that could be Biblically supported first.
1. The elimination of such words as “unsaved”, “lost”, “sin”, “Hell”, “Heaven”, and other gospel verities from the pastor’s message.
2. The reclassification of the saved and lost to the “churched” and “unchurched”. ( I am a big proponent of a Biblical vocabulary. I am not a proponent of a vocabulary that demonstrates a theological education.)
3. Open hostility to the members who do not embrace the new program, or who may have left for another church. (This would clearly indicate ungodly behavior on the part of those who are in charge of the church.)
The eleven points that could be evidence that a church is slipping away from God, (but also could mean nothing at all is wrong) are as follows.
1. Replacement of the organ and the piano with heavy metal instruments. (None of the instruments listed here are in the Bible.)
2. The Pastor, or a leader with a few assistants, usually four, takes charge of all church business. (This issue is not that they take charge but are they accountable to the congregation and to God in any concrete way.)
3. Funded budgeted programs are abandoned or ignored with ambiguous financial reports made. (Budgets are not ever in the Bible; accountability is.)
4. Sunday morning, evening, or Wednesday prayer meetings are changed to other times; some may even be eliminated. (I had trouble not putting this in the ridiculous tradition over scripture category. The only support in the Bible for a time of worship is vague and that is that the church met together on the first day of the week. AND the book of Acts actually promotes meeting every day. Romans 14:4-8 clearly puts this in the liberty category and condemns the legalistic attitude that is so evident in this point. I put it in this category because changes of service times or the elimination of them could be a sign of a lessening hunger for the word of God.)
5. In accordance with Dr. Warren’s instructions, new version Bibles are used; or only verses flashed on a screen are referenced during regular services. (Since I am in the KJV camp I was tempted to agree with this one, but I can’t. Good, godly people use other translations. I also don’t like any “flashed on the screen” verses, as that I ant people to learn and know the Bible, but there is a time and place for differing methods.)
6. The word “church” is often taken from the name of a church, and the church may be called a “campus”. Denominational names may often be removed. (This is focusing on externals and not the internal realities of who and what a congregation is. This list did the same with music. Pharisees focus on the externals. That is a Biblical truth.)
7. Purpose driven church films, purchased from Saddleback, precede or are used during regular services. (This one made me laugh. It is a ridiculous criticism).
8. An emphasis on more fun and party sessions for the youth. (Each individual situation can only be judged on its own merits. This is a terrible generalization.)
9. Elimination of altar calls or salvation invitations at the close of the service. (There is no support for or against this practice in the Bible.)
10. The marginalizing, or ostracizing, of all who are not avid promoters of the new purpose driven program. (My problem with this statement is the word “avid”. All members should submit to and support the direction of their church, but why does it have to be “avidly”.)
11. Closed meetings between the Pastor and the chosen staff members without reports made to the general membership. (I have seen this behavior in all sorts of church settings, sinners sin even in leadership. The Bible does support accountability and openness, but this point is to vague and general.)
Last of all are the 10 points that are so clearly legalistic, Pharisaical, and the traditions of men that cannot be supported Biblically.
1. Change in music to a contemporary rock style. (For those who disagree with me here remember that style is a tool, an external thing; that includes what we call traditional styles. The issue is never the style. Any style of music can be used for God or for the devil and are. The issue is what is the right style for me to worship with. It is also the motive for using a style. A motive can be very carnal for what is called a good and godly style – by which I mean the style that you like.)
2. Removal of hymnbooks; eliminating the choir? (HUH? And where in the New Testament is a choir required for worship in church.)
3. Repetitive singing of praise lyrics. (It may not be my cup of tea, but come on, Some of our traditional hymns go on and on too.)
4. Dressing down to casual attire. (This is from the same crowd that would condemn “clerical” robes and collars. There should never be a “Christian” form of dress.)
5. Eliminating business meetings, church committees, council of elders, board of deacons, etc. (Again, support these from the scriptures please. They probably are a good way to do church “business”, but the church is not a business.)
6. A repetitive 40-day Purpose Driven Church Study program stressing Psychological relationships with each other; the community, or the world begins. (I have to wonder what sort of Christianity does not recognize that all relationship are Psychological and the heart of Christianity is relationships. Yes, it may be true that a study by Rick Warren may not be the best, but why would “yours” be better. PRIDE)
7. Sunday School teachers are moved to different classes or replaced by new teachers more sympathetic with the changes being made. (Moving teachers around can be a very good thing, especially if they are thinking they “own” that ministry. And a lack of sympathy to changes can be just fleshly rebellion and eventually that person should either repent or be replaced.)
8. The name “Sunday School” is dropped and classes are given new names. (Sunday School is not in the Bible in either name or concept. It is a tool, a modern one, and it is a good tool, but not the only tool.)
9. Crosses and other traditional Christian symbols may be moved from both the inside and the outside of the church building. The pulpit may also be moved. (“Traditional” means not “Biblically based”. Pulpits are not found in the New Testament.)
10. The décor, including the carpets, may be changed to eliminate any resemblance to the former church. (This was not worth the ink it took to write it.)
This pamphlet got me thinking about how easy it is for us to get twisted between what is tradition, what is my opinion, and what is actually Biblical. This blog is written with the intent to challenge us (me) to be humble toward each other, humble before God and to constantly measure our positions by the word of God.
I grew up in a traditional independent Baptist Church and was taught to read, memorize, and love the word of God; yet at the same time there was pressure to conform to a “traditional” thinking and interpretation of it. (in one church covenant it said, “traditional Baptist Understanding”) Whether that pressure was intended to control and limit honest thinking and questions, it had that effect. Peer pressure and conformity were very real. The traditions (called, creeds, doctrinal statements, and positions) became the guide and control for interpreting the Bible. This resulted in my inability to read a passage of scripture for what it said, instead of what my “theology” wanted it to say. It was crippling for me spiritually.
I have sought to question all my opinions (traditions) by the actual wording and context of the scripture I was reading. This has brought about a constant changing and growing of my theology, rather than a constant finding support for my opinion in each verse I read. My positions no longer controlled my theology. (I still have strong positions and should) Man does not live by the fundamentals or the essentials of the faith. We live by every word of God. I no longer say that the Bible is my only authority for faith and practice while in practice making my traditions and opinions my authority. Proverbs 3:5 puts it this way. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
1st Corinthians 13:12 “Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.”
2nd Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all with open face beholding AS IN A GLASS the glory of the Lord, are changed (constantly and continually) into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
This practical change in the authority in my life has helped me to experience that glorious liberty of the sons of God, rather than my constant struggle with bondage.
The blog receives its name from another article I read that said that your church was probably in trouble if it replaced the wooden pulpit with an acrylic one. This made me smile. Then I started to think about how much I like the idea of an acrylic pulpit. An acrylic pulpit is a strong, transparent platform from which to preach the word of God. This blog strives to be a transparent platform for the preaching of the word of God.