(Originally printed in the Fall 2004 Issue of the MCOI Journal beginning on page 16)
Many Church leaders today are engaged in a cultural struggle over the direction of the Church. How can loving, following, and serving Jesus Christ become so divisive? The question at the heart of the controversy is: “Does man or God control the future and direction of the Church?” The proverbial camel is now settled inside the tent; it must be recognized and examined in the light of Scripture. We live in a day when the church has become intoxicated with trying to be relevant, all in the name of trying to reach people with the Gospel of Christ. This noble motive is good, but it is inconsistent with Biblical teaching concerning the purpose of the Church. The Church is a God-called body of believers whose sole purpose is to glorify Jesus Christ; thus, its basic appeal is to those who have been made new by the power of God. The focus of the Church is God Who is the Creator of all things, Who provided complete redemption on the cross, and Who promised to build His Church through earthen vessels. It is good to know that church history repeatedly declares that while man-centered movements fail; God has, is, and will continue to preserve and build His Church.
Methodology has largely replaced relationships within the church. The right marketing approach plus the latest larger-than-life electronic presentation is said to be the key to building Christ’s Church; man and his wisdom will make it happen. This “seeker-friendly” or “purpose-driven” approach employs: a contemporary and its esprit de corps, preaches a non-offensive positive message, helps people to get in touch with their “true self,” removes all the “church stuff,” and avoids Biblical terms which only “confuse” the seeker. Fellowship has become party time. Above all, do not let the Cross of Christ become an offense. The church is best seen as a community center offering shopping-mall motifs to meet the needs of the natural man. From the mood music, to the snack bar, to the Bible bookstore, with classes for every problem, folks can have their physical and spiritual needs met. Success has been re-deﬁned as mega; after all, so many people can’t be wrong. To grow, just take the right class or complete the appropriate seminar for spiritual growth, instead of being challenged to spend a lifetime in joyful submission to God, feeding on His Word so as to become conformed to Jesus Christ.
Leadership should rely on the historic stand of the Church that salvation is of God, Christian growth is of God, and the Church is a community of servants who have witnessed God do “… exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think …”. (Eph. 3:20) Leaders were chosen on Biblical criteria—humble characters who were used by God to shepherd His Church. Shepherds were not told to ﬁt the mold of the modern corporate CEO. The blessing of God produces a greater sense of humility and responsibility because of what He has done. As a sinner, man comes to acknowledge his personal sin and eternal condemnation because of that sin, with the regenerating work of God, the Holy Spirit, resulting in saving faith. Knowing that God is the Author and Finisher of our faith produces humble devotion to the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world. The Apostle Paul faced a similar dilemma (Philippians 1:12-18) as he, too, wrestled with the issue of the Gospel being furthered through earthen vessels. In prison because of his love and service for Christ, he noted that this persecution produced boldness in the early disciples. The Apostle Paul observed in his day that “some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will … selﬁsh ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add afﬂiction [to Paul] …,” but some proclaimed Christ “… out of love …” (Phil. 1:15). Paul’s summary of the matter is found in Philippians 1:18: “What then? Only [that] in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.Ω
All Scripture quotes from: The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.
Pastor E. Lynn Howe, (photo unavailable) was the pastor of the West Side Baptist Church of Billings, MT. at the time of this article’s printing. The church is committed to glorifying Jesus Christ by obeying the Scriptures as sole authority of faith and practice.
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