OPIN­ION

The chang­ing be­lief sys­tem of the church

The Covington News - - Religion -

A re­cent Barna poll ex­plored the shift­ing views that those Amer­i­cans who still re­main in the church have to­ward the church. While this poll ex­plored the al­ter­na­tives to the con­ven­tional church, other re­search shows a far more alarm­ing trend. I am not so much con­cerned over the chang­ing struc­ture of the vis­i­ble church as much as I am con­cerned over the chang­ing be­lief sys­tem of the church.

It seems that mod­ern man is try­ing to re-de­fine the church, try­ing to dis­cover why we ex­ist. I’ll tell you why we ex­ist. We ex­ist for the glory of God. That is the sole pur­pose of the church. When we for­get that pur­pose, we set our­selves up for ul­ti­mate dis­as­ter. Some­one once ob­served that the be­gin­ning of all heresy is an overem­pha­sis of a bur­den and an un­der-em­pha­sis of Christ. All of his­tory sup­ports that ob­ser­va­tion.

Amer­i­can Chris­tian­ity has a propen­sity for the prag­matic — if it works, we fig­ure it must be right. But never for­get that the Bi­ble is full of sto­ries where what worked was, in fact, wrong.

One of my fa­vorite char­ac­ters is a lit­tle known prophet by the name of Mi­ca­iah. You can find his story in 1 Kings 18 and in 2 Chron­i­cles 18. He is, in my book, a very un­usual man. Here’s a syn­op­sis of his story. The King of Is­rael wanted to re­claim some land that the king of Aram had cap­tured three years pre­vi­ously. But Is­rael was not strong enough to do it on her own. So Je­hoshaphat is king of Ju­dah and fa­ther-in-law to Ahab, king of Is­rael. Ahab asks for Je­hoshaphat’s help. Je­hoshaphat agrees to help but only if the Lord ap­proves it.

To make a long story short (and save space), Ahab calls to­gether the prophets of Is­rael, and to a man they say in ef­fect, “God’s given you the go ahead.” Je­hoshaphat isn’t con­vinced and senses some­thing is not right, so he asks, “Is there still an­other prophet of God around here we can con­sult?” “ (1 Kings 22:7, The Mes­sage). There was. He was sit­ting in prison. Why? Ahab didn’t like his mes­sages.

He’s sent for, but with a warn­ing to agree with all the other guys — af­ter all so many can’t be wrong. Mi­ca­iah stands firm, is ridiculed and mocked and put back in prison be­cause he re­fuses to com­pro­mise his mes­sage; he re­fuses to take the po­lit­i­cally cor­rect route. He re­minds me of Martin Luther, who stood against all of Chris­ten­dom at the Coun­cil of Worms and said, “Un­less I am con­victed by Scrip­ture and plain rea­son — I do not ac­cept the author­ity of the popes and coun­cils, for they have con­tra­dicted each other — my con­science is cap­tive to the word of God. I can­not and I will not re­cant any­thing, for to go against con­science is nei­ther right nor safe. God help me. Amen. Here I stand, I can­not do oth­er­wise.”

Jeremiah, an­other of the Old Tes­ta­ment prophets, wrote, “To whom can I speak and give warn­ing? Who will lis­ten to me? Their ears are closed so they can­not hear. The word of the Lord is of­fen­sive to them; they find no plea­sure in it” (Jeremiah 6:10, NIV). It is this same con­di­tion to­day that has some in the church scram­bling to re-de­fine her pur­pose, task and im­age.

If the church would but stand-up for what she was cre­ated for, if we would stop try­ing to give the mes­sage that make the Ahabs of this world happy, stop copy­ing what the prophets who have the ear of the king be­cause they want in on the “suc­cess” and started lis­ten­ing once again to the voice of God as given in his reve­la­tion, then we would re­ally be­gin to make a dif­fer­ence once again in our so­ci­ety.

The late Vance Havner once said, “The church, it has been said, is not run­ning a show-boat but a life-boat, and we make our­selves ridicu­lous in try­ing to com­pete with the world. The preacher and church that stand for God and right­eous­ness will be mag­ni­fied.”

John Pear­rell

Colum­nist

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