Several people in my church asked me to read this column by Mr. Fred Thompson in our local paper’s community section.
After reading the column it seemed good to respond to this column with a few thoughts about Mr. Thompson’s observations, and also offer an overall though about the task of faithful gospel churches. We should all take note of some of Mr. Thompson’s observations.
- No doubt, the methods of the modern “anything goes” church have not produced the revival that anyone hoped. This should convict us that church growth is not the same as being a faithful disciple-making church.
- The fact that churches no longer guide or influence our nation should put on display the utter ineptitude of the church to guide other institutions. This should convince us that God called the church to disciple and discipline individuals not institutions.
- The past thirty to forty years has seen the church youth group our children into spiritual death. Separating youth and children from the rest of the church does not make disciples! Without youth, adults lose vital energy. Without adults, youth lose vital truth.
As a pastor, nothing grieves my heart more than the thought that I might sidetrack or shortchange “the pattern of sound words” that I received. 2 Timothy 1:13-14 tells me that my greatest duty is to repeat, not alter or make more attractive the words I receive, guarding this good deposit entrusted by the Holy Spirit to me.
Having said that, one of the constant struggles I have encountered comes when I must challenge either the unacceptable modern conceptions of church as well as the unacceptable traditional conceptions of church. Neither of these options faithfully displays the New Testament church, primarily because the apostles and elders of NT Church tailored their church to pass on the teachings of Jesus to their age as well as any age.
Should we listen to nothing that Acts tells us about the practice of the early church? No. Can we learn from their pattern of church? Yes! I do not buy the “descriptive” rather than “prescriptive” distinction which some theologians claim about Acts. They say Acts merely describes what the church did, not prescribe what our churches should do. I understand that we cannot recreate 1st century Jerusalem or Corinth. We can however, draw from the way they addressed their context biblical practices that should characterize the ministry of the local church. We can further support these biblical practices when we discover them explained in the rest of the NT.
If we admit that certain biblical practices please Christ more than others, then we must say no to many good modern ideas and traditional activities. Only the necessary things which please Christ should remain. To Mr. Thompson’s point, I do not favor an “anything goes” church. After all this type of church should really not be called a church, since the Scriptures and the Spirit no longer guide the worship. Even so, I also do not want to merely return to the old traditions of church from the past 50-100 years. This “nothing new” traditionalist church also sacrifices the Scriptures’ principles for favorite hymns, practices, attitudes, and members (primarily those who pine after “better” days).
That which I desire to devote my life and ministry towards follows the pattern of “sound words” received by the Scriptures. We need to focus on being faithful to the necessary elements of a local church and seek to pass those on to the next generation. That kind of biblical church both reaches out to people with Christian love and builds them up with God’s Word. This church makes disciples as did Jesus in order to produce a lasting family of faith. This kind of church necessarily pleases Christ.
Mr. Thompson’s says, “If you approve of and practice things that are clearly forbidden in Scripture, where is the faith?” To that I heartily say, amen. Even, so we must press on to further say, “If you do not approve of and practice things that are clearly commanded in Scripture, where is the faith?” I would hope that Mr. Thompson would amen that statement. We desperately need churches in which “Everything That” Goes pleases Christ.