The quickest and surest way to bring about change in a society is to instill a sense of panic. In a nation, in a community, and yes, in the churches, if you can convince people that we are in peril, that their very survival is at stake, they will welcome many changes that under other conditions would not be tolerated.
For some time now church leaders have been hitting the panic button and issuing dire warnings about the future of the church in our society. We must get our heads out the sand, see what is happening and above all else respond with appropriate change. We can’t do things the old way, people don’t want that, they won’t embrace that, you can’t say it that way, we have to change, change, change.
The statistics regarding the number of churches closing and the rate of declension in membership among American bible believing churches should certainly have our attention.
I recently came across these words written by a prominent pastor, “Our lot is cast in an age of abounding unbelief, skepticism and, I fear I must add, infidelity. Never, perhaps, since the days of the early Roman persecution of the church was the truth of revealed religion so openly and unblushingly assailed — and never was the assault so speciously and plausibly conducted.” And then carefully consider these words that I cam across on the internet a few weeks ago by another prominent pastor, “It is come to be taken for granted by many people, that Christianity is not even a subject of inquiry, but that it is now at length assumed to be fictitious. And accordingly they treat it as if, in the present age, this was an agreed point among all people of discernment, and nothing remained but to set it up as a principal subject of…ridicule, for its having so long interrupted the pleasures of the world.”
Pop quiz? What prominent pastors wrote these dire warnings?
The first prominent pastor I quoted is J. C. Ryle. He wrote those words in 1879. The second quotation is from Bishop Butler who wrote in 1736.
When Paul wrote to Timothy and told him to be steadfast in the faith and to preach the Word he did so against the prospect of great changes coming to the church. People would not want sound doctrine and if Timothy gave them sound doctrine he could anticipate that tthe flock would likely go eleswhere and find preachers and teachers to give them what tthey wanted.
There are certainly churches that need to change and that need to change drastically. The Bible calls for repentance and for reformation. Churches who are unfaithful to their calling and commission must change. Churches aware of sin in their midst and compromises in their doctrine and practices must change. But we must not change due to fear and we must not alter due to the pressures of society. Every pressure we feel to change must be produced by the weighty pressure of exegesis and not the enormous pressure of an empty pew. Before we push that panic button, let’s remember it’s been there for a long time and let’s remember how faithful men responded in the past.