What is Neo-Evangelicalism? (Part 3)

Neo-evangelicalism is sold on the principle of parachurch organizations and interdenominational groups. Notable among these are the National Association of Evangelicals, Youth for Christ, Campus Crusade for Christ, Radio Bible Class, and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. Although many of these organizations were founded with good intentions, the philosophy of neo-evangelicalism and para-church corrupted them.

Neo-evangelicalism has spread through educational institutions. Some common neo-evangelical schools are Gordon-Conwell, Biola, Regent, Westminster Theological Seminary, Evangelical Divinity School, Moody Bible Institute, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Wheaton College. Wheaton is a school that John Rice felt comfortable sending his daughters to years ago. These places are present day hotbeds of neo-evangelical ideology.

What is truth if there is not an opposite? If there is truth, then there is error. Churches need to hear what error is. A “fundamentalist” may visit a neo-evangelical church and hear nothing disagreeable. He may go there for a period of time and hear nothing heretical. The problem, however, is what is not heard. Strong preaching on separation and clear condemnation of error is absent. A person may hear truth, but not the whole story.

The publishing media promotes neo-evangelicalism. Christianity Today was started in 1956. Even today it is promoting neo-evangelical causes. In the first two years that it was printed, it was distributed to preachers in the USA, Canada, Great Britain,

Australia, and New Zealand at no cost. That is the attempt to infiltrate belief and thought into churches. Christian publishing companies (for the most part) have promoted neo-evangelical authors.

Neo-evangelicalism seeks to replace separation with dialogue. Several years ago, a homosexual active group travelled to “conservative” colleges around the country, one of which was Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. They were stopped at the gate and not allowed to come in. They continued on to Cedarville University in Ohio (a General Association of Regular Baptist churches approved school). Cedarville (a Neo-evangelical institution) authorized a dialogue between the unrepentant homosexuals and its’ students. Neo-evangelicalism is characterized by replacing separation with, “Let’s just hear what they have to say. We have a responsibility to hear them out. It’s not really Christian not to listen, is it?”

Neo-evangelicalism divides Biblical truth into the categories “essential” and “non-essential”. Again, Pastor Ken Brooks delves into this in depth in “Why Cumbereth it the Ground?” In the history of evangelicalism (and even fundamentalism), critical Bible doctrines, such as the doctrine of baptism, have been on the “non-essential” list. Considering the number of Bible believers throughout history that have died for over this doctrine, should baptism really be considered a “non-essential”?

Neo-evangelicalism is characterized by an attitude of softness. This attitude reveals itself in the desire for a “less strict” Christianity. The typical person does not want to go to war, but the Bible speaks throughout regarding battle; it is inevitable. A

person either stands or caves in to the forces that would turn him away from Bible Christianity.

Neo-Evangelicalism has redefined Bible terms. One of these is the term judging. Should Christians judge? Although scoffed at by the typical Neo-evangelical, the Bible is replete with commands to judge. A Christian must “prove all things”. He then must “hold fast to that which is good”.

Another misinterpreted term is love. Notable Neo-Evangelical Jack Van Impe said this:

“Let’s forget our labels and come together in love. The pope has called for that. I have 400 verses on love. Until I die, we’ll proclaim nothing but love for all my brothers and sisters in Christ, my Catholic brothers and sisters, my Protestant brothers and sisters, Christian, Reform, Lutherans, I don’t care what label you are, by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if you have love one to another.”

Love has to be defined biblically. To human thinking, love may be nothing more than a warm feeling or a romantic thought. Among a majority of modern Christians, love is a broad mindedness and a nonjudgmental tolerance of anyone to claims to follow Christ. This is not what the Bible says about love. John 14:23 states, He answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words. Philippians 1:9,10 says, And this I pray that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.

I John 5:3 records, For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments.

Another word that is misused by neo-evangelicals is the word unity. There is a unity in the spirit; a unity of faith; a unity that has as its’ foundation the New Testament assembly. Neo-evangelicals frequently point to Ephesians 4:1-6 and say, “We all need to

come together. We all need to be unified. If you are causing contention, then you are breaking the command of God to all be unified together.” This is a clear illustration of the truth that what a person believes about the local church, frankly, determines most of what he believes theologically. When the book of Ephesians was written, it was addressed to the believers at the church of Ephesus. A contextual reading of Ephesians 4:1-6 will confirm that the unity spoken of is a unity of the body of believers at the church at Ephesus. It is not calling for a unity of anyone that claims the name of Christ. Christ never taught that, and that is an impossibility. This mindset is simply an excuse for being interdenominational and para-church in their doctrine, practice, and preaching. They cannot be “big” if unity is limited to the local church.

Legalism is another misused term. Obeying God’s commands is not legalism. Living a holy life set apart to the Lord’s service is not legalism. Living a life separated to Christ and from the fads and fashions of the world is not legalism. Romans 12:2 says Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Wayne VanGeldren, Sr. who pastored the Marquette Manor Baptist Church, said in the article A New Softness Within Fundamentalism:

“In the 50s and 60s the Conservative Baptists were the Fundamentalists, the Separatists among the Baptists in the north. They had fought a noble battle but finally had to come out of the old northern Baptist convention. Soon after the separation and the formation of the Conservative Baptist Association, there began to emerge a strange spirit. Many began to feel that we needed to be more Christian, more practical, more communicative, more gentle in our stand for God. The terms “soft core” and “hard core” were used to describe the two camps that emerged. The soft policy was to be practical at the expense of being righteous. The results sought for were more important than the means. These compromisers believed that part of the movement was too hard. Over 400 churches left the Conservative Baptist Association in a division in the 1960s and these fundamentalists churches blossomed and multiplied in the 70s and in the 80s. Now, in the 90s, some of us see a reenactment of the past. There’s a new emphasis on methodology. Holiness is pushed back into the Dark Ages. In spite of greatly increased open sin, the preaching against sin has softened. In every generation, our battles must be re-fought. The generation that does not follow the old paths will die the same way that the previous generation that refused to fight died.” (Quoted by David Cloud in the article New Evangelicalism – Its History, Characteristics and Fruit at http://www.wayoflife.org)

The pressure to compromise is only going to grow, so this pressure must be neutralized by a determination to stand true to the whole counsel of God. Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth. John 17:17 states, “Thy word is truth”.

What is Neo-Evangelicalism? (Part 2)

In the late 1940s, the men that had battled modernism had grown older, and their sons were growing up. They saw their fathers and their pastor take hard stands against modernism. These boys were “second generation Christians”. Some of the younger generation respected the determination of their fathers and continued in the fight against false teaching. Others desired an easier path. The Bible is clear that every generation has to fight battles over and over again if purity in doctrine and practice is to be maintained. The battle for truth is not a fight about which may be said, “That battle was won fifty years ago; glad that is finished. We can just go through our days in ease.” For churches that have done right, it has never yet happened where there was an entire generation that did not have to endure some type of hard, friend-separating type of battle.

In 1942, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) was established. This group referred to themselves “evangelicals” (as opposed to “fundamentalists” or “liberal”). Actually, the NAE started off with many fundamental men, among whom was: Bob Jones, Sr., John Rice, Harry Ironside, and David Otis Fuller. In 1948, Harold Ockenga was given the authority of this association of evangelicals. He was the pastor of the Park Street Church, which is a part of the Freedom Trail in Boston. In 1948, he coined a new term: “neo (or new) evangelical”. He said this:

“Neo-Evangelicalism was born in 1948 in connection with a convocation address which I gave in Pasadena while reaffirming the theological view of fundamentalism. This address repudiated its

ecclesiology in its social theory. The ringing call for a repudiation of separatism and the summons to social involvement received a hardy response from many evangelicals. Neo-Evangelicalism is different from Fundamentalism in its repudiation, or its rejection of, separatism and its determination to engage itself in theological dialogue with men that believed other than we did. It had a new emphasis upon the application of the gospel to the social and political areas of life. We sought to reengage people in theological debate to recapture denominational leadership, to reexamine theological problems such as the antiquity of man, and the universality of the flood, God’s method of creation, and others.”

Ockenga said that he wanted to maintain the tenants of fundamentalism but open up a dialogue with those that believed differently. He rejected the harsh separation; he sought rather for dialogue. This is the essence of Neo-Evangelicalism.

By the mid 1950s, evangelicalism got its poster boy that would spread its tenants around the world. Billy Graham was a tool of the National Association of Evangelicals to promote interdenominational love, unity, and fellowship. Although some Fundamentalists immediately rejected Graham, many others, even into the 60s and 70s, wondered if Billy Graham was doing right or not. Many churches succumbed to the pressure and took the opportunity to have a different type of Christianity—the kind that was non-confrontational, accepted socially, and accepted culturally.

Neo-Evangelicalism has continued its downward spiral. A popular Neo-evangelical offshoot is the “Emerging Church Movement”. Emergents seek to be 100% culturally relevant. These are the churches where the pastor preaches in blue jeans and a t-shirt, and sit on a stool. Sermons might include subjects such as: weight loss, self-esteem, and how to get along in the work place. For some, neo-evangelicalism still is not culturally relative enough. Neo-Evangelicalism is a slippery slope.

Spurgeon said, “We want John Knox back again.” He said, “Don’t talk to me of mild and gentle men, of soft manners and squeamish words; we want the fiery Knox, and even though his vehemence should ding our pulpits into blads, [he was going to tear their pulpits up] it were well if he did but rouse our hearts to action.” He was not content just to preach against error, he also separated from it, even to the point of being misunderstood and misrepresented by his students and his own brother.

The influence of neo-evangelicalism is spreading rapidly today. In the 1940s, fundamentalists that were dissatisfied with separation sought to rework their teachings to become more palatable to their congregations. Neo-evangelicalism was popularized through print, radio, and television. Men like Billy Graham, Harold Lindsell, Luis Palau, E. V. Hill, Charles Stanley, Bill Hybels, Warren Weirsbie, Chuck Colson, Jack Van Impe, D. J. Kennedy, Charles Swindoll, Max Lucado, are just a few of its charismatic personalities. Their influence reaches far beyond the four walls of their churches.

There is an infiltration that is desired by neo-evangelicals. Because of this, the church of Ephesus in Acts chapter 20 received a warning from Paul. He said, “As soon as I leave, wolves are going to rise up from the outside of the church and men from the inside of the church, are going to rise up speaking things that they should not.” That is why every church is assigned a shepherd. Shepherds have staffs. A staff hurts when it is applied. The staff is not used to tickle or amuse. It is there to hit and protect and ward off the wolves that will come.

What is Neo-Evangelicalism? (Part 1)

Neo-Evangelicalism is a movement that was popularized in Christianity beginning in the middle of the 20th Century. Its influence continues to be felt worldwide.

To understand the history of Neo-Evangelicalism, one needs to understand that in the centuries following the “Reformation” (1700-1900), the concept of Rationalism took hold of many theological institutions. Men adhering to this belief became very popular, particularly in Europe. Rationalism looked at the Bible and accepted only what could be understood by the human mind. What they could not understand, they explained away. This initiated a rejection that Moses authored the first five books of the Bible, that the miracles of the Bible were literal events, and even the truth of the inspiration and preservation of the Scriptures. At the onset of this rationalistic movement, America itself was in its fledgling colonial era. Some American universities were started in these times; among these were Harvard and Yale. They were started to produce men that preached. In this time, it was common practice for the men in America to study religion overseas, spending years in places such as Germany universities. Incidentally, Germany was the hotbed for critical, rationalistic type of thinking. This rationalism, when applied to Biblical studies, became known as “theological liberalism”, and it was affecting America’s preachers.

In the mid 1800’s, when Darwin’s theory of evolution came out, many theological schools, rather than deny it, tried to homogenize the Bible and evolution. Since universities produced preachers, churches would in turn be infiltrated with this type of liberalism. Someone has compared infiltration to the spread of ivy. It starts out in one

small area, but it soon spreads further. Liberalism (a.k.a. Modernism) began in seed form in the teachings of a few infidel professors. As the decades passed, it spread abroad. By the 19th century and the beginning part of the 20th century, it had permeated most religious institutions of higher learning. This issue brought Christianity in America to a point of decision. In the early 1900’s, modernists in the classroom and in the pulpits were abounding, spreading their falsehood. Both Europe and America were seriously affected.

Bible believers rose up to warn against this extensive heretical teaching. In England, modernism crept into the British Baptist Union, the association of Baptist churches of which Charles Spurgeon was a part. Spurgeon spent his last years battling modernism within this association (the “Downgrade Controversy”). Spurgeon lost both lifelong friends and his health as a result. He was hated; eventually he was kicked out of the British Baptist Union for refusing to turn a blind eye to their modernistic ways.

A key event in this history is the production of The Fundamentals. These were Biblically sound (for the most part) books describing what Fundamentalists believe, and they were distributed free of charge to thousands of homes, as a response to liberalism. Notable men became “spokesmen” for the fundamentalist movement. J. Frank Norris became one of these leaders. Baylor University (a Southern Baptist Convention school) began to teach evolution. Norris said, “This is wrong.” Consequently, he was kicked out of the Convention in the 1920’s for fighting modernism. He also lost numerous friends.

Other men joined the fight. T. T. Shields, a Baptist preacher from Toronto, had to fight similar battles in Canada.

The fundamentalist/modernist controversy formed a clear division. No longer was it enough to just call oneself a Baptist; a person had to describe what type of a Baptist he was. Some Baptists chose modernism, while others were “Fundamentalists”. It is important to note that Fundamentalism was not a movement unique to Baptists. It enveloped multiple denominations. There remained vast differences regarding important doctrines between fellow fundamentalists. Joining the fundamentalist movement was certainly “a show of strength” against the Modernists; however, soon the interdenominational aspect of Fundamentalism produced damaging effects of its own. Pastor Ken Brooks has delineated these issues in his recommended book, ‘Why Cumbereth It the Ground? An examination of the origins and impact of American Christian Fundamentalism”

In 1922, Harry Emerson Fosdick (pastor of Riverside Church, a Baptist church in New York City that was famous for being funded by John D. Rockefeller) preached a famous message that was copied and also sent around the country. The title was “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” Fosdick was a popular and engaging speaker. He had a radio program that thousands of people would listen to weekly. Despite this, he was a liberal. His message asks, “Are we going to let narrow-minded fundamentalists keep us from associating with brothers in Christ who do not believe just like us? Are we going to allow fundamentalists preach that we cannot believe in evolution and still believe the

Bible?” This message served as a dividing point among many churches. By the 1930s, most churches had either chosen the path of liberalism or fundamentalism, with most “mainline” denominations and their educational outlets going the way of liberalism.

What Makes Our School Successful?

Certain principles of success are timeless. They span business and personal life alike. A Christian would understand these to be God-ordained maxims, applying both to believers and non-believers. Whether they like it or not, even the unbelieving world falls under the jurisdiction of the general revelation and governing laws of God’s universe. Undoubtedly a Bible believing Christian is best positioned to grasp the purpose behind the immutable principles of this world. They should be that much more effective to a person with a “Christian worldview.”

Back to success. What makes an individual school successful? To answer that question, one must first answer this critical inquiry – “Who is judging success?” Once that is answered, the next question follows, “What is this determiner of success using as his or her rule book to make this success/failure analysis?”

To answer the question posited in the subject of this essay — What makes our school successful?, we answer the two questions of the previous paragraph. First, God is the judge of success. Second, His revelation in the form of the inspired words of scripture comprises the “rulebook” by which success or failure at Fairhaven Baptist Academy is decided. In Genesis 18:25, Abraham in prayer asks, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” The unstated yet understood answer is “Yes, the Judge of all the earth will do right. He will judge correctly. He will hold both individuals and institutions accountable for their adherence to or diversion from the immutable principles of success as revealed through His words.”

So what does make our school a success? What makes Fairhaven Christian Academy & Fairhaven Baptist College successful is its commitment to administrate, teach, and operate with the overriding conviction that success is determined by our Judge through His word.

To the extent and with the thoroughness that is has done this in the past, FCA & FBC will be judged a success. To the extent and with the thoroughness that is does this in the upcoming school year, FCA & FBC will be judged a success. And to the extent and with the thoroughness that it remembers Who is judging and the guidelines the Judge will always utilize, FCA & FBC may be deemed successful schools in the future.

From the timeless principles of scripture, FCA & FBC must establish administrative, classroom, and operational standards. These standards, springing out from rooted Biblical convictions, make FCA & FBC unique and distinct schools. As a student attends, he must, in turn, see that his own life will be judged. He will succeed or fail personally.

A young person educated in a school that operates, teaches, and administrates in submission to the Judge of the whole earth and His word, is well on his way to personal success, as decided by the Lord Himself.

EARLY BAPTISTS EXPECTED DAILY FAMILY RELIGION

“Virginia Baptists in 1800 exemplified the Evangelical belief that family religion prepared children to become Christians.” So states historian Donald G. Mathews in his book Religion in the Old South (1977). To prove his point, he references the minutes of the Virginia Portsmouth Baptist Association from May 24, 1800.

The record of these minutes promotes five daily activities in each home. It was understood that church services were not a substitute for a spiritual home. These Baptist understood the need for families that were governed by fathers and mothers concerned for their children’s souls. The five activities were:

1. Daily Bible reading.

2. Daily exposition of the text, explaining how the Bible applies to everyday situations.

3. Daily exhortation, which was to be used with all long-suffering and doctrine, that those in the home would be “delivered from sin and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.”

4. Daily catechizing would reinforce the reading, exposition, and exhortation of the daily Bible reading by asking the children questions and listening to their answers.

5. Daily prayer was the “means” of opening young hearts to God’s saving grace.

Consider the potential for fruitful Christianity when fervent family religion joins with the zealous teaching and preaching of God’s word at church services! On the other hand, recognize what great opportunities are lost when “family religion” is neglected. Determine to practice “family religion” in your home daily.

Baptist Distinctives

Baptist Distinctives

Over the past several weeks, we have heard, both in sermons and in mid-week institutes, an explanation of the “Baptist Distinctives.” In review, they are:

B – Bible is sole authority for faith and practice

A – Autonomy of the local church

P – Priesthood of the believer

T – Two offices of a church – pastor and deacon

I – Individual soul liberty

S – Separation of church and state

T – Two church ordinances – baptism and the Lord’s supper

Bible college students attend a class (on in the case at Fairhaven Baptist College four classes) on Systematic Theology, which encompasses ten Bible doctrines (The Doctrines of: God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, Man, Sin, Salvation, Scripture, Angels, Satan, and Last Times). While teachers reference numerous scripture passages in this study, Systematic Theology class still does not cover all the doctrine of scripture. The word “doctrine” simply means “teaching,” and II Timothy 3:16 states “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine . . .” Properly stated, the entire Bible is God’s preserved teaching (doctrine) for us.

Our church invested time and effort in the teaching and preaching of the Baptist distinctives so that each member could know why we call ourselves “Baptists.”

It is no accident that we are Fairhaven Baptist Church, and we certainly do embrace the name Baptist for convenience sake. The New Testament reveals specific truth that makes a local church “distinct”, when it is followed. Baptist distinctives are Bible distinctives.

Properly understood, adherence to the Baptist Distinctives does not place our church into a denomination, but rather into a system of belief and practice. For this reason, the first Baptist Distinctive is that the Bible is the sole (only) authority for faith (what we believe) and practice (how we live). As New Testament Baptists, our faith must not be built on the Bible plus tradition, or the Bible plus a dominant personality, or even the Bible plus ancient writings. If we are to be Baptists in the biblical sense of the word, our faith and practice is founded upon the unchangeable Bible alone.

Subject to change: A plea to young men

If you are a ministry-minded young man, you are “in the balance.”  Living in the information age affords access to more varied ministry philosophies than ever — so many blogs, tweets, posts and persuasive personalities to sort through.  Sooner or later, you will face what our former president George W. Bush termed a “decision point.”

 

I count as my strongest influences men who discipled me throughout my youth.  I was blessed by wise men who knew me, invested their time into me, and warned me.

Scripture addresses young men repeatedly.  The book of Proverbs is one example.  The Apostle Paul invested in the personal training of his young associates.  Many other examples could be cited but consider briefly the scenarios affecting three different younger men during several chapters of I and II Kings.  As a young man these passages gave me guidance that I needed, and I believe that they provide helpful instruction both for young men and those influencing them.

 

In I Kings 12, newly appointed King Rehoboam faces a choice between two opposing leadership philosophies.  He receives conflicting advice from two sources – the first from aged men, and other from his youthful peers.  To his detriment, he chooses the advice of his contemporaries.  Rehoboam stands as a warning — a young leader, at his “decision point,” wrecked by the faulty advice of youngful advisors.

 

I Kings 13 recounts a young prophet carrying a message from God.  This man meets an unnamed old prophet, and a kind one at that.  Even while claiming authority from God, the old prophet persuades the young prophet to act contradictory to God’s directives.  The young prophet’s life suddenly ends in tragedy, while the deceitful old prophet lives on.  The young prophet at his “decision point” was deceived through the duplicity of his older “prophet-friend.”

 

From II Kings 6 yet another lesson for young men emerges.  A fearful young man expresses despair at the sight of an army with horses and chariots surrounding his city.  The prophet Elisha assures his young servant that God’s forces outnumber the enclosing army, and then simply prays, “Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see.”  The verse continues, “And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw…”  In answer to the prayer of a prophet, a young man understood for himself the power of God.  There stands a young servant safe and secure — pointed to God by a faithful, older saint.

 

Certainly, we want our sons and our sons in the faith to see God and His timeless truths for themselves.  No one disputes this.  To accomplish this, a young man needs courage to recognize and reject error in his persuasive peers.  But he also at times needs to discern the faulty direction of disobedient men, even though they are older, carry a title, and are very kind to them.

 

Do you share in this prayer of Elisha – open his eyes – for those you influence?  I do.  I pray this for my two sons.  I pray this for the students I teach.  I pray this for myself.

Psalm 119:18 says, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” Every believer needs his spiritual eyes opened personally to God’s truth.  Young men, impressionable, and susceptible to altering course, will at some point find themselves in the balance – a place of decision about ministry philosophy.

 

A young, moldable man will receive a myriad of influences and an array of philosophies.  But he is not without hope or direction, because when an immutable God opens a young man’s eyes to His unchanging words, many practical ministry decisions are determined.  When you find yourself fascinated by the bandwagon of the latest ways of your peers, take a warning from the foolishness of Rehoboam.  On the other hand, learn the lesson of the demise of the young prophet who placed his confidence in the older prophet, but in so doing forsook God’s words.

 

As you establish a ministry philosophy, consider these four areas of concern:

 

  1. The significance of the shepherd

 

Upon the shoulders of a shepherd lies a vast measure of responsibility.  And why is this? Because shepherds guide sheep.  The office of the pastor correlates to the function of a shepherd, but rather than leading sheep, pastors guide people.  Just as sheep are to follow the voice of their shepherd, congregations are instructed to follow their pastors, as they follow God (Hebrews 13:7).  And as actual sheep learn to trust their own shepherds, so it is natural for church members to grow in confidence toward their pastors.  Correspondingly, a pastor will give account for his people (Hebrews 13:17), and this accountability weighs on a pastor in a way that many church members cannot fully understand (2 Corinthians 11:28).   While your own life is made of your choices, when you begin to guide others, the impact of your resolutions expands, affecting people – profoundly (Luke 12:48).

 

To go one step further, pastors do not influence just their own congregations.  A pastor who writes, posts sermons, or streams his church services can affect many others.  Churches host conferences which usually include a time when new ideas are proposed and discussed.  And when a man “experiences success,” others migrate toward him.  That is a part of the history of the independent Baptist movement.  The ability to exert influence beyond the four walls of one’s church has never been greater.

 

Along with heightened awareness of new movements and growing ministries comes the allurement, particularly to younger men, to react by shifting one’s positions.  This becomes his “decision point.”  Consider what faces a pastor who chooses to lead his congregation into a philosophical change.  First, he must get his own congregation on board with him, and that is not without some level of unrest, and in a discerning, discipled church, may prove a daunting task.  A leader who shifts positions also forces the hand of his “spiritual fathers.”  His “mentors” love him and do not wish to lose influence on him, yet they are forced to respond to his shift.  What are their options?  First, they could label his changes as wrong, thus losing influence over him and possibly his affection.  Second, they may accept his change and start to add more things to a growing list of non-essentials.  Third, they may attempt to overlook it — a “temporary fix” at best.  One way or another, a shift toward the contemporary must eventually be addressed.  With the understanding that all decisions have consequences, young pastors must be extremely cautious of the talk of the “new.”  New is not always better, nor is it free from wide-ranging effects.

 

  1. Caveat emptor

 

Caveat emptor – “Let the buyer beware.”  Before you “buy into” the latest wave of change, you do well to follow the Bible admonition to “count the cost.”  Unlike Amazon, the return policy on new ministry positions is not generous – at all.  Every decision has a consequence, but ministry decisions, because of their nature, result in multi-faceted ramifications.  1 Thessalonians 5:21 implores us to “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.”

 

When a leader embraces a ministry philosophy that includes a readiness to shift positions and practices, he needs to understand that he is not just gaining that new method or practice but also losing something as well.  Introducing new tastes and styles to a church has permanent consequences.  You will surrender ground that will never be regained.  Amen for gathered crowds, but don’t be so shallow as to embrace ministry change due to the ideas of successful crowd gatherers.  Someone will always be “bigger.”  There’s a driving force behind every ministry.  Independent Baptists state that the Bible is the sole authority, and rightfully so.  But how that Bible is to be applied in 2019 requires careful discernment (see the previous post – #7 “Chapter and Verse – by Pastor Brennan for a very practical discussion on this point).  No one wants to be misled, but how can a person “foresee” the direction a shift in their ministry philosophy will lead them?

 

  1. Identify the guide

 

Whether we care to admit it or not, we all have guides.  There are no self-made men.  Furthermore, men need guides.  So, men have and need guides.  Understanding this truth proves invaluable when considering ministry choices, because by identifying a man’s guides, you peer into his future.  Who doesn’t want to know what’s ahead?  Exercise due diligence and “vet” direction.  So before mimicking a change suggested by someone’s ministry, note his guides.

 

A man’s associations guide him.  Who are his friends in the ministry?  Everyone remembers the basic truth we learned in Friends 101 – “you are now or you soon shall be what your friends are.”  None of us are escaping that fact.  Look at a man’s friends.  They are affecting him.  My friends affect me, and yours influence you.

 

The books that a man reads become his guides.  Many men post reading lists.  They may list the books they have read recently, or even their personal recommended reading lists.  Without a doubt all reading requires discernment.  Even the best writers are at best just men.   But when it becomes apparent that someone with influence is championing the writings of those who have “already shifted,” take note.

 

Learning who a man’s friends are and seeing who he reads will go a long way in explaining the reasons for the changes a man makes in his ministry.  It’s the law of sowing and reaping.  The fruit of our ministry grows out of the seeds we choose to plant, not the least of which is our friends and our reading.

 

  1. Proper position, but poor practice

 

Those who “say, and do not” lay stumblingblocks before young men.  Leaders who preach holiness and accompanying standards while living contradictory lives are used by many young men as an excuse to abandon their heritage.  Young men peg gilded ministries well.  A young man may conclude that “although this ‘contemporary church’ may not have the standards I was taught, and may conduct their worship service differently, they certainly model the Lord in their attitudes and their words.  I’ll take that over hypocrisy.”  Though not the only contributing factor in the migration of men to the contemporary style, disingenuous “traditional” ministries certainly contribute to it.  What is to be said about this?

 

First, to think that changing churches or adopting new styles will insulate one from hypocrisy is naïve.  Read any Christian news website to see this.  Second, this response is anthropocentric — driven by a man’s adherence or lack thereof to what he says he believes rather than by the Scriptural legitimacy of the position or practice itself.  In this situation, the resulting shift (for example, away from “traditional” to “contemporary”) is a reaction founded not primarily on the Scriptures, but merely in protest of an undesirable or hypocritical ministry.

 

To all young men desirous of a faithful ministry, we praise the Lord for you.  May you see and know God personally.  And since the privilege of leading people is great, count the cost of every ministry decision you make.  Learn to identify the direction of a ministry by identifying the “guides” of that ministry.  Be ready to “stand against” pressure from peers.  Don’t be fooled by an older man who takes you under his wing, while pointing you away from what is right.  Consequences lie ahead, both in this life and in eternity.