I was having lunch with the preachers on the program for the annual Bible Conference at Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta last week. One of the speakers for the conference was Dr. Hershel York, the Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
We were discussing compromise in the church and Dr. York said, “The church doesn’t need to give the world what the world already has.” The statement was profound.
I was seated by Pastor Wayne Robertson and said to him, “Dr. York’s statement has just inspired an editorial. So, here it is!
It is an enormous challenge to attract the lost world to the church in this 21st century, because everything this world knows comes through 30-second sound bites and Tweets.
I had a conversation with one church planter a decade or more ago and he told me he was surveying the community where he intended to start his church and asking people the question: “If you ever decided to become a part of a church what kind of church would you like for it to be?”
The young church planter took weeks going to the homes of people in this section of greater Atlanta and asked people, most of whom were presumably lost, what kind of church they would like to see planted in their neighborhood. Perhaps I am wrong, but it appeared to me that he was attempting to establish his church around the vision and values of the unredeemed.
Do you have to adopt the world’s ways to attract the lost? No, the Bible, and specifically the book of Acts gives us God’s principles for church growth and health. Any truly healthy church is built upon God’s infallible Word and in the book of Acts great churches were known for having great power (Acts 4:33), great grace (Acts 4:33), great fear (Acts 5:5), great persecution (Acts 8:1) and great joy (Acts 15:3). I would also add great faith as a requisite for a great church, because Jesus commended it on several occasions (Matthew 8:8-10 and Matthew 15:22-28).
Many churches seem to have adopted the world’s accouterments (trappings, accessories), philosophies and ideologies to attract the unbeliever. Much of this “new approach” to reaching the lost comes out of a church growth movement that stressed seeker sensitive worship, felt needs preaching and consumer driven programming.
Along with the “new approach” came a “new theology” – pragmatism. Pragmatism may be defined as “the doctrine that results and success are the criteria of truth, meaning and value.”
Rick Warren stated in his book The Purpose Driven Church, “Never criticize any method that God is blessing.” Some have taken Warren’s comment to heart and developed methods, sometimes untraditional or even unbiblical, in order to grow a church.
God may not be blessing every thing that looks successful. I am convinced that the devil sometimes appears to bless compromise and counterfeits to deceive the very elect. Consequently, churches established on a faulty foundation may draw a crowd, but whether or not they grow a church through authentic evangelism and biblical discipleship is debatable.
It is being commonly repeated that the culture has influenced the church more than the church has influenced the culture. In some cases the world has begun to infiltrate the church. In some cases that is through seniors idolizing their traditions and in some cases that is through young adults doing “whatever works” to grow their church.
We can bring all of the world’s music, drama, videos and methods of communication into the church, but we need to make absolutely sure that we don’t give the world what the world already has.
There was a man, according to Jesus, who had great wealth. He had barns with no room to store his excess produce and fruit, so he decided to tear down his barns and build larger barns so that he would have goods laid up for many years. The rich man prepared himself to “take (his) ease, eat, drink and be merry.” However, God called him a fool and predicted his immediate death.
That rich man didn’t need anything the world had to offer. He needed Jesus.
I understand that one of the James Bond movies was entitled “The World is Not Enough.” I don’t know what the film was about, but there is much truth in the title of the movie. That is why the church doesn’t need to give the world what it already has.
The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be distinctively different from the world. Adrian Rogers used to say, “The Christian/church needs to stand out in this dark world like a diamond in a coal mine.”
The Apostle Paul declared, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (I Corinthians 6:17).
Exodus 11:7 states, “. . . the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.”
God obviously wants there to be a marked difference between His people and the people of the world. The church is not to be like the country club, the sorority, the fraternity, the civic clubs, the educational system, the Loyal Order of the Moose, the United States Congress or the credit union.
The true church offers light; the world offers darkness. The church offers hope; the world offers despair. The church offers eternal joy; the world offers temporary happiness. The church offers peace; the world offers war and conflict. The church offers love; the world offers lust. The church offers salvation; the world offers sin. The church offers deliverance; the world offers deception and death. The church offers heaven; the world offers hell.
So, the church has something to offer the world that the world does not have, so why would any church conform to the world, its methods and ideology and try to give the world what the world already has?