This series of 26 lessons was developed for classroom presentation from the book by David Miller that should be required reading for every preacher, elder, and Bible school teacher in the Lord’s church: “Piloting The Strait”.  This book is available from a variety of bookstores, Sain Publications at www.sainpublicans.com as well as from David Miller at www.apologeticspress.org.

 

CHANGES IN THE CHURCH

SOURCES OF CHANGE-CULTURE

 

Deuteronomy 32:7  REMEMBER THE DAYS OF OLD, CONSIDER THE YEARS OF MANY GENERATIONS: ASK THY FATHER, AND HE WILL SHEW THEE; THY ELDERS, AND THEY WILL TELL THEE.”

 

Jeremiah 6:16  THUS SAITH THE LORD, STAND YE IN THE WAYS, AND SEE, AND ASK FOR THE OLD PATHS, WHERE is THE GOOD WAY, AND WALK THEREIN, AND YE SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.  BUT THEY SAID, WE WILL NOT WALK therein.”

 

            But our generation cries for change.  During the span of our life time change has become the rule of the day.  In science, in business, in society change is continuous, it is demanded, it is short lived and frequently it is radical.  One of the major reasons for this continuous demand for change is the cultural upheaval that has occurred during the past 50 years.

            We came out of the economic depression of the 1930’s into a World War.  At the end of the war American society then began the process of settling down, putting their lives back together again and readjusting itself to something that we considered “normal” in terms of how we lived.  At the same time we had to learn how to enjoy both technological and economic prosperity far beyond what we had dreamed about less than 10 years before.

            Born into this cultural upheaval came the generation known as the “baby-boomers”.  Anxious to better themselves their/our parents brought them/us into a world with comforts and a pleasant existence as much different from that they had known before the war as they could afford.  While religious interests were basically confined to Sunday the foundation principles of American society were maintained and the value system that recognized the difference between what was right and what was wrong continued pretty much as it was.

            Then in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s something happened.  It really began in the 1950’s with rock and roll music, motorcycles and the beatniks.  Then the Beach Boys and the Beatles, who were basically clean-cut and innocent were replaced with something else.  Then we had to deal with Vietnam, hippies, drugs and the “generation gap”.  We suddenly had a new set of rules for playing the game of life, we had a whole new set of social values and a variety of other things.

            The answers given to our questions about life’s meaning came back telling us  that there were no absolute answers.

            As small children the baby-boomers were terrorized with the prospect of a global nuclear war.  One of our presidents and another who was considered a prospective replacement was murdered in full view of the TV cameras.  We went from props to jets, from sputniks to men on the moon, from 8 millimeter film to video tape and now DVD’s, from mimeograph to Xerox, from the atomic bomb to star wars and from polio vaccine to organ transplants in a few short years.

            We were made to see that life was in a mess, the world was in a mess, that our own lives were gradually becoming the same way and then made to feel that we weren’t responsible.  Society and psychologists taught us to blame our shortcomings on our parents and the discipline under which they tried to raise us.

            We were told to just be ourselves, which meant we were free to “do our own thing” (just “do it” in that day’s vernacular).  They were taught by their teachers at school that the old ways of teaching were wrong, that the old ideas being taught (that is absolutes of right and wrong, views of God and morality) were traditional, outdated and ineffective.

            An overwhelming chorus of voices, fostered by the “turn on” to Asian religions, demanded that we recognize the world’s alternatives to the American value system as legitimate and even preferable.  We were encouraged to “drop out” and “turn on.”  We were taught to hate (and many did) the Vietnam war, the draft board, the establishment, the government, our country, and even our parents and the religion that they taught us.  The order of the day among many of this new generation frequently became nudity, “free love”, long hair, incense, waterpipes, hashish, acid, grass, speed, Roman sandals, headbands, beads, peace symbols, roach clips, “granny” glasses, panel trucks, sitars, concerts and light shows.  All of this worked to numb our awareness of reality.

            The baby boomer generation has settled down for the most part now and become successful but it still harbors its basic attitudes of resentment, resistance and rebellion against authority and status quo.  We still want big changes, forward movement and momentum.  We want to make things happen – with a big splash.

            The effects of this upheaval of society is being felt in the church as well.  Many have forgotten the admonition of the Apostle John:

 

I John 2:15-17  LOVE NOT THE WORLD, NEITHER THE THINGS that are IN THE WORLD. IF ANY MAN LOVE THE WORLD, THE LOVE OF THE FATHER IS NOT IN HIM.  FOR ALL THAT is IN THE WORLD, THE LUST OF THE FLESH, AND THE LUST OF THE EYES, AND THE PRIDE OF LIFE, IS NOT OF THE FATHER, BUT IS OF THE WORLD.  AND THE WORLD PASSETH AWAY, AND THE LUST THEREOF: BUT HE THAT DOETH THE WILL OF GOD ABIDETH FOR EVER.”

 

Some of our churches have needed changes; but more and more of the changes being made reflect the baby boom mentality and provide so-called solutions which amount to a departure from Scripture.  We are seeing outright rejection of what is called “traditional” doctrinal positions.  We see churches opting for the big business marketing techniques which manipulate people into the church to appeal to their lusts, desires, wants, wishes and misperceived needs.  This is the primary source of the community church concept that has exploded in numbers over the past ten years.

            The church is being restructured in the same fashion as our society has been restructured since the 1960’s.  We are re-evaluating and redefining our religion to accommodate our changing circumstances and in this redefinition some of the things that are being discarded along the way; e.g.

            the “authority” of elders

            the extent of “fellowship”

            the “purpose” of baptism

            what constitutes “adultery”

            whether the Genesis narrative may be described as “myth”

            how the Bible is to be interpreted

            whether the Bible constitutes a “pattern” to which people must conform

            the definitions of modesty

Much of this merely reflects the rebellion mentality of the 1950’s  and 60’s, childhood – resistance against “the establishment”, our rejection of “authority” in general and the authority of God to dominate and rule our lives in particular.  The eternal conflict between good and evil, right and wrong, scriptural and sinful has given away to “I’m okay, you’re okay” and even if you aren’t okay and your soul is lost I’m not supposed to say anything about it.

 

SOME OF THE BASIC ROOT CAUSES

 

MATERIALISM:

 

            America has achieved a higher standard of living, allowed us to amass more wealth and possessions than any society in the history of the world.  It frequently is far beyond the wildest dreams we may of had when we were chopping cotton in northeast Arkansas, cutting sprouts on a Missouri hillside or gathering corn in a Tennessee field.  American has forgotten the warning to Israel:

 

Deuteronomy 6:10-12  “AND IT SHALL BE, WHEN THE LORD THY GOD SHALL HAVE BROUGHT THEE INTO THE LAND WHICH HE SWARE UNTO THY FATHERS, TO ABRAHAM, TO ISAAC AND TO JACOB, TO GIVE THEE GREAT AND GOODLY CITIES, WHICH THOU BUILDEST NOT, AND HOUSES FULL OF ALL GOOD things, WHICH THOU FILLEDST NOT, AND WELLS DIGGED, WHICH THOU DIGGEDST NOT, VINEYARDS AND OLIVE TREES, WHICH THOU PLANTEDST NOT; WHEN THOU SHALT HAVE EATEN AND BE FULL; then BEWARE LEST THOU FORGET THE LORD, WHICH BROUGHT THEE FORTH OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, FROM THE HOUSE OF BONDAGE.”

 

            My brethren have forgotten the words of Paul:

 

I Timothy 6:9-11 “BUT THEY THAT WILL BE RICH FALL INTO TEMPTATION AND A SNARE, AND into MANY FOOLISH AND HURTFUL LUSTS, WHICH DROWN MEN IN DESTRUCTION AND PERDITION. FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL: WHICH WHILE SOME COVETED AFTER, THEY HAVE ERRED FROM THE FAITH, AND PIERCED THEMSELVES THROUGHT WITH MANY SORROWS.  BUT THOU, OF MAN O GOD, FLEE THESE THINGS; AND FOLLOW AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS, GODLINESS, FAITH, LOVE, PATIENCE, MEEKNESS.  FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH, LAY HOLD ON ETERNAL LIFE, WHEREUNTO THOU ART ALSO CALLED, AND HAST PROFESSED A GOOD PROFESSION BEFORE MANY WITNESSES.”

I Timothy 6:17-19  CHARGE THEM THAT ARE RICH IN THIS WORLD, THAT THEY BE NOT HIGHMINDED, NOR TRUST IN UNCERTAIN RICHES, BUT IN THE LIVING GOD, WHO GIVETH US RICHLY ALL THINGS TO ENJOY, THAT THEY DO GOOD, THAT THEY BE RICH IN GOOD WORKS, READY TO DISTRIBUTE, WILLING TO COMMUNICATE; LAYING UP IN STORE FOR THEMSELVES A GOOD FOUNDATION AGAINST THE TIME TO COME, THAT THEY MAY LAY HOLD ON ETERNAL LIFE.”

 

AGNOSTICISM:

 

            America has been made to believe that truth cannot be known.  Clear-cut distinctions between right and wrong have been blurred.  Values are now viewed as subjective and relative rather than objective and absolute.  America has forgotten that:

 

John 8:31-32  THEN SAID JESUS TO THOSE JEWS WHICH BELIEVED ON HIM, IF YE CONTINUE IN MY WORD, then ARE YE MY DISCIPLES INDEED; AND YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH, AND THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.”

 

John 18:37  TO THIS END WAS I BORN, AND FOR THIS CAUSE CAME IT INTO THE WORLD, THAT I SHOULD BEAR WITNESS UNTO THE TRUTH.  EVERY ONE THAT IS OF THE TRUTH HEARETH MY VOICE.”

 

AVERSION TO BEING JUDGMENTAL:

 

            The removal of moral absolutes naturally leads to the insistence that no one should take issue with anyone else’s behavior.  Many times, even in our own experiences, opposition to that which is wrong is stopped dead in its tracks by a simple declaration that “you’re being judgmental”.  In the minds of many Americans the only objective wrong that exists it to insist that there are such things as moral absolutes that people should live by.  Many remember very well Matthew 7:1 “JUDGE NOT, THAT YE BE NOT JUDGED” but we’ve forgotten that our Lord and Saviour also said:

 

John 7:24  JUDGE NOT ACCORDING TO THE APPEARANCE, BUT JUDGE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT.”

 

John 3:18-20  HE THAT BELIEVETH ON HIM IS NOT CONDEMNED: BUT HE THAT BELIEVETH NOT IS CONDEMNED ALREADY BECAUSE HE HATH NOT BELIEVED IN THE NAME OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD.  AND THIS IS THE CONDEMNATION, THAT LIGHT IS COME INTO THE WORLD, AND MEN LOVED DARKNESS RATHER THAN LIGHT, BECAUSE THEIR DEEDS WERE EVIL.  FOR EVERY ONE THAT DOETH EVIL HATETH THE LIGHT, NEITHER COMETH TO THE LIGHT, LEST HIS DEEDS SHOULD BE REPROVED.”

 

John 12:48  HE THAT REJECTETH ME, AND RECEIVETH NOT MY WORDS, HATH ONE WHAT JUDGETH HIM: THE WORD THAT I HAVE SPOKEN, THE SAME SHALL JUDGE HIM IN THE LAST DAY.”

 

Matthew 7:20  WHEREFORE BY THEIR FRUITS YE SHALL KNOW THEM.”

 

CRAVING FOR ENTERTAINMENT:

 

            As the work ethic, so much of the foundation of our American civilization, has been undermined and eroded away, younger generations have naturally had to occupy themselves some way and have turned to anything that will relieve their boredom.  “Fun and games” have come to dominate the lifestyle and orientation of the boomer generation and those that followed it.  All week is spent garnering the wealth of this world and then on the weekend there is an exodus from St. Louis to the surrounding lakes, from Detroit up I-75 to the northern playgrounds, from Atlanta to the Carolina and Georgia coasts for play and pleasure.  Every major metropolitan area in this country has its example.  Meanwhile God is forgotten.

            And if God isn’t forgotten completely then “Church” constitutes something out of the community church movement or some semblance thereof.  With “lesson” presentations acted out in a dramatic setting, programs written, choreographed like a Broadway musical with a “church staff” larger than some sound congregations of the true church.  Special music, praise teams, songs designed not to bring us to a humble recognition of our Creator and his nature, or express our joy for his goodness and generosity to us but to appeal to man’s emotions and put us on a high.  Then the handclapping, arm waving and other forms of physical movement or even dancing becomes the natural response and shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody.

And how did this get into the church?  We invited it in!  Through improperly supervised youth meetings, Bible camps, and VBS.  Children’s Church, some of the new songbooks improperly used and the blurred division of purposes between the work of our Christian Schools and the work of the church also made their contributions.

 

LACK OF DISCIPLINE:

 

            As a result of the materialism and absence of hardship, the generation promoting change is characterized by a sense of laxness and satisfaction of their passions.  In business lying is as common place as breathing.  We’ve adopted the oriental style of business where anything goes unless you get caught.  Then the oriental thinking is that the thing for you to do is commit suicide because of your disgrace; not for doing wrong, but for getting caught.  The hard work ethic of the Bible has become “OUT OF DATE” but the BOOK still says:

 

Ephesians 4:28  “LET HIM THAT STOLE STEAL NO MORE: BUT RATHER LET HIM LABOUR, WORKING WITH his HANDS THE THING WHICH IS GOOD, THAT HE MAY HAVE TO GIVE TO HIM THAT NEEDETH.”

 

II Thessalonians 3:10-12  FOR EVEN WHEN WE WERE WITH YOU, THIS WE COMMANDED YOU, THAT IF ANY WOULD NOT WORK, NEITHER SHOULD HE EAT.  FOR WE HEAR THAT THERE ARE SOME WHICH WALK AMOUNG YOU DISORDERLY, WORKING NOT AT ALL, BUT ARE BUSYBODIES.  NOW THEM THAT ARE SUCH WE COMMAND AND EXHORT BY OUR LORD JESUS CHIRST, THAT WITH QUIETNESS THEY WORK, AND EAT THEIR OWN BREAD.”

 

            Self-denial has been replaced by self-indulgence, self-improvement and self-esteem.  Pursuit of the necessities for an ultimate spiritual purpose has given way to the pursuit of luxuries for our physical gratification and personal fulfillment.  The disciplined, self-controlled lifestyle has been replaced by a causal, unrestrained and loose approach.

            As these attitudes permeate the thinking of the world about us, as we’re bombarded daily with the changes in moral and ethical standards that have occurred we shouldn’t be wondering why we are having problems with the same type of thinking in the Lord’s church.