I believe that every church has at least two “climates” that will mark them to one degree or another. There is a climate of truth and, for lack of a better term, a climate of culture. The climate of truth for most Reformed Baptist Churches is laid out in our Confession of Faith. These are the things ‘most surely believed among us’. To some degree or other, we claim this document as the doctrinal foundation of our churches. Its truths come out in our preaching and prayers. It is part of how we identify ourselves. But churches also have a certain ‘culture’, a way of doing things. A way of practically living. This will be seen in how we worship, what we sing and how we sing it, it will even affect things like how we dress and the overall ‘climate’ of our public gatherings (more formal, less formal, etc). I believe that in our churches one or the other of these ‘climates’ will gain the preeminence in the thinking, desires, and preferences of our members. Far too often the climate that ‘wins’ is culture and not truth. Let me explain. Let’s say that you have a family committed to historic, confessional, and baptistic doctrine who attends for some years what may be called a traditional Reformed Baptist Church. The pastor preaches with a coat and tie, he stands behind a pulpit, the church uses a hymn book, perhaps a pianist is utilized or there is no instrumentation at all. They move to an area in which there are two ‘Reformed’ churches. One is a church where the pastors embrace and love the 1689 and the other is an Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This 1689 church is a bit more on the ‘progressive’ side. They utilize power point and the pastor sits on a stool and wears no neck tie. The OPC church however has the same ‘culture’ as their previous church, coupled with serious deviations on doctrines which are important to any knowledgeable and convinced Baptist. What is the family to do? Let’s flip the situation. A family comes from a progressive church and they move to an area where there is a confessional church. A church which holds ‘the things most surely believed among us’, but they sing hymns! The pastor wears a tie. The church is ‘formal’. And what do they do? They find a church with a band but with doctrinal that departs from their confessional understanding and conviction. What has triumphed? Not truth, but culture. I’ve seen both scenarios numerous times and from both sides. Brethren, are we instilling in our pulpits and in our pews the excellence and the preeminence of truth or of preference? In things themselves or how they are fleshed out? What will be the climate which is ultimately embraced, loved, and lived out? May God help us to keep the main things the main things.
July 21, 2012
Truth and Culture