Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Churches Mission: Conform Or Transform?

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Churches in America are on the march, however they are not all marching in the same direction. "Onward Christian Soldiers" has different meanings to different groups.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has elected its first openly homosexual synod bishop.

The number of Presbyterian churches requesting dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (USA) last year has increased five fold compared to 2011.

There are clearly two views of the church's mission. One is to conform to the culture, be "welcoming" and accepted, while the other is to stay the biblical course and transform the culture.

What is the actual mission of the Christian church?

Conform in an attempt to show love, accommodation and inclusiveness? Or, in love, to speak God's unchanging Truth with the intent of bringing redemption and transformation to broken individuals?

Why does the church exist? To welcome and affirm or to redeem and transform?

We are not surprised---disappointed for sure, but not surprised that Apple Corporation has pulled from its iTunes store a mobile app created by "Setting Captives Free," a non denominational ministry which offers free courses aimed at helping users battle "habitual sins" such as "sexual impurity, substance abuse, self injury and gambling." That list wasn't the problem. The problem was with one of the courses titled, "Door of Hope" which helps "free users from the bondage of homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ and the cross."

That was a problem. Apple took the app off.

Unfortunately, some churches are behaving in the same way Apple is. Although the Bible is abundantly clear that homosexual behavior is sin and strongly condemns it, churches are hearing the "conversation" about fairness and "equality" and pulling their app.

In one way, this is discrimination against homosexuals because it is the power of God's redemptive love that heals us all and delivers us from destructive sin---and all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, therefore all of us need a savior and redeemer.

But for that particular sin---to affirm that sin, churches and denominations are willing to split, people are hurt, families are hurt and some churches and their denominations choose to turn their back to the truth of God's Word in regard to that particular sin while continuing to "reach out to those in need with the gospel." A selective gospel, while feeling they are administering "equality" or social justice and fairness.

All churches that are choosing to affirm homosexual behavior as normal and welcome it into the church and into the church leadership are not considered part of the "Emerging Church" but the Emerging movement and mainstream denominations end up in the same place for some of the same reasons.

There are three basic problems with the "Emerging Church."

1. Culture dictates church practice. While the Bible teaches us to worship God, the Emerging Church often relies on incense, art, images and non-biblical experiences to "draw near to God."

It's a breeding ground for contemplative spirituality, which becomes a kind of eclectic Christianity with no specific doctrines or beliefs. Relativism. Beliefs are based on experience rather than experience being based of beliefs that are rooted in God's Word.

2. Theology is in a state of flux as experiences, preferences and needs change, therefore the beliefs of the church must adapt to the culture and change its beliefs. They advocate that "good" people have come to different conclusions on Scripture and theology, so why focus on theology at all. Consequently, theology is not something concrete, absolute or authoritarian. No one is "right" or "wrong". Therefore theology is based on preferences, and various Scriptures are quoted to affirm those preferences.

3. Preaching or proclaiming is outdated because that suggests authority.

This problem flows from the first two and leads to no leadership but rather facilitators who sit in a group of peers and discuss their personal journey, often quoting Scriptures to affirm their changing but meaningful beliefs.

In this world, all philosophies are equal. There is no biblical authority because the Bible is merely used to affirm beliefs and behaviors, not provide a clear moral compass with consequences.

If Scripture is in flux, why did God give it to us in the first place? The answer is clear. It is not in flux. God's Word is not relative to cultural preferences.

Jesus said He is the Truth. Has that too changed?

While there are differences between the Presbyterian and Lutheran churches and the 'Emerging Church" movement, they are arriving at the same place. And they are embracing many of the same philosophies.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church has elected its first openly homosexual bishop.

Rev. R. Guy Erwin, a North Hollywood theology professor and pastor, has been voted bishop of the ECLA churches in Southern California.

Many ECLA congregations are choosing to leave their denomination over this issue.

The number of Presbyterian churches that requested dismissal by the Presbyterian Church USA is up five fold from 2011 to 2012.

While only 21 churches asked to be released in 2011, 110 were granted dismissal in 2012.

Nearly to a one, these congregations cite the decision of the Presbyterian Church to ordain openly homosexual pastors as the reason for leaving.

In January 2012, the conservative biblically based Presbyterian churches met in Orlando, resulting in the creation of a new body known as the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians---or ECO.

This past January, one year later there are 28 churches in the new body with 75 more considering becoming a part of it.

The PC (USA) explains that their loss of membership is not related to this issue, rather it is associated with a general trend experienced in all churches.

In the case of most mainline churches who are willing to stand against God's Word on the issue of homosexual behavior, they do so because they are trying to stop the decline in membership.

This is a sad commentary.

If the church allows the surrounding culture to dictate its practices, its worship, its theology and resulting beliefs, it will ultimately be assimilated into the culture, losing its identity, its power and its value.

"Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the power of God."

Rather than having conversations about God, perhaps we should have a conversation "with" God and confess our sins, asking Him to forgive us through the power of His Son Jesus Christ and to transform our culture.

This message will transform lives, retain membership and fill pews. And ultimately change our world.

Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Prayerful. Be Active. Be Blessed.


  1. “Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the Church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.” Charles G. Finney, Power From On High, Chapter 11 (c. 1871-1874)

  2. I'm sure it wasn't your intent Gary, but this entire post is an affirmation that Christ established an actual, visible, unified Church and that separation from it has come at a terrible price. The schism by the Orthodox from the Catholic (universal) Church was the beginning of the problems, but much more remained in common (liturgy, sacraments, devotion to the Theotokos, etc) than that in disunity. Reunification ("breathing with both lungs") remains the constant prayer of popes, patriarchs and laity alike. But the rupture committed by Luther began a hemorrhage that has flowed unabated - through Calvin, Henry VIII, Wesley and on down to the present age.

    Our blessed Lord gave His apostles, the first bishops of His Church, actual power to bind and loose. If the bible, which did not even exist until a couple of centuries after the Ascension, was so self-evident in meaning, why did the Lord give this authority to define and bind doctrine to His chosen men and their successors? Without this divine safeguard, why is your interpretation of biblical text more valid than Joel Osteen or the council of the PCUSA or Katharine Jefferts Schori? By what authority do you claim it? Everything you rightly lament in your writings point to the reality that there is no "church", but rather a loose collection of people and organizations who have some beliefs in common, but many that are in opposition, with no authoritative glue to hold it all together.

    The Catholic Church, for all of the obvious faults of its sinful members and some leaders, has remained constant, consistent and unchanging in doctrine on faith and morals. She can do no other, her head, Jesus Christ, ordained that His Holy Spirit would guard and protect her from the gates of hell. She has been here since 33 AD, and she will be here until He comes again.

    1. Anne,
      It would not be my intention to disparage the Catholic Church in what I am about to state... Please note that the Catholic traditions and doctrinal adherements, etc have also changed significantly over the centuries. Luther brought forth a primary proposal, a return to the foundational truths of the bible, the words of the prophets and apostles. He and others like him yearned for a return to the moorings of the original faith. Just read the letters Paul wrote to the churches and you easily see the rapid deviation to which the churches were (and are) prone. Denominational variances aside, there are basic core beliefs and teachings that remain constant to faith in Christ, there are details that may be debated. Luther translated the bible for all to actually read (who could) themselves, and yes, that transformed Christianity, and the world, forever.
      - GM

  3. The more liberal churches receive their morality from secularism of the left . they even attack religion as the secular left does . Part of this is morality and part is Faith .

    But yes it does look like the so called mainstream churches are just becoming more like the culture we find ourselves in . Un like the early Christians that transformed Rome , we are being transformed .

    Public Education has become indoctrination centers , no belief is considered superior , all values are neutral . Its not so much in my opinion that public education is anti God , but it is really anti the Judeo Christian ethic . Leftism is destroying our heritage .

    In the 1960s 4 percent of our population was born in homes where the Mom was never married, divorced, or widowed . That percent is now 44 percent and climbing . Something has to change or we will become like Europe . Secular and on a path of unsustainable budgets and government programs that support our immorality .

    Mick In Kingston

  4. I know a man who is trying to give up his gay lifestyle. He realizes that he was seduced at a young age, which destroyed what might have been his (more normal) sexual proclivities. He slid into homosexuality, but, in spite of a partner, never found fulfillment there. He is trying to come back. Secular churches such as you described do not help this man--they confuse him. Thank goodness he and his partner have not "married." That would have made the break much more difficult. Some folks think they are being kind giving the gays "marriage equality." All they are doing is condemning gays to a life of sin that is ever more difficult to leave behind. As Christians, we should love gay people, but never abandon them to their sinful state. That is not love.


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