by Wayne J. Edwards
The dumbing down of doctrine and theology, in the effort to reach the latest generations, has also weakened our mission to get the whole Word to the whole world. Therefore, not only are we not reaching the unchurched, because we have hidden the true gospel behind catchy phrases, acrostics, and market-driven analysis so much that we no longer have any "good news" to tell them, but at the same time we have unchurched the churched, by abandoning the very methods God used in their lives to encourage their spiritual growth and maturity—including our responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission.
Today's Christians are content to defend their homes and families rather than to allow the Lord to use them in the world to make a difference. The majority of Christians today seem to be more interested in making sure they are getting all of the blessings God has promised them, rather than being a channel of God's blessings to the rest of the world.
In so doing, the church is missing some major opportunities to share the gospel in a world that has never been more ready to hear the truth than it is today. As Marva Dawn says in her book, "While researchers are discovering that members of the boomer generation are searching for moral authority, multitudes of preachers are throwing theirs away." (Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: a Theology of Worship for This Urgent Time, William B. Eerdmans, 1995).
Therefore, by not being different from the world, today's church is not making any difference in the world. As we look at the battles we, as believers, have fought over the last century, and especially those over the past 40 years, it saddens me to see that the Christian soldiers of our generation have let the standard of our Lord fall in dishonor. Like Lot's family, today's generation of Christians has become accustomed to the casual lifestyle of this evil world. The contemporary Christian seems to enjoy the personal freedoms, the economic opportunities, the pleasures and the pastimes of our society just as much as the non-Christians do.
As for the Christian life in particular, contemporary Christians seem to love the entertaining performances, the religious rituals and the less convicting tone of today's market-driven Christianity more than they the love the Lord, and therefore live by His Word. The truth is, by the lowering of our standards, we have allowed the banner of the cross to fall in dishonor. But the greatest disgrace to our Lord is that there is no great cry among God's people that someone raise that standard up again.
Irrefutable evidence that we are drawing closer to the Lord in our worship, our walk, and our witness would be that we are able to see this world for what it really is, and not what we would like to believe it is. When we do, then we will be willing to go where we are sent, and do what we are sent to do, in order to make a difference. Since we are not seeing that happen in and through the church today, the only conclusion one can draw is that the glory of God has departed from the majority of churches. The sad thing is that many of the church members are so caught up in maintaining the ministry machinery they do not realize the Holy Spirit is missing.
The reason there is so much confusion about what a church ought to do and to be today is because we have forgotten what it means to be the Body of Christ in the world today. Some believers are trying to make the church fit their own concept of what they think the church ought to do and be. It's exactly what the Christian philosopher Francis Schaffer said in the 1970s would be happening in the church in the 1990s.
Schaffer called it "radical individualism," where everyone worships his own concept of God rather than the God of the Bible, who has been revealed to us through Jesus Christ. The great Puritan writer, J. I. Packer, referred to it as "hot tub religion"—the philosophy that Jesus is there to answer prayers and the church is there to meet needs—without concern about true doctrine, theology, or the other essential issues of the faith; nor concern about missions, or about witnessing, or whether their worship is acceptable unto God. The church-goers' only concern, he intimated, is how the church can meet their needs!
But this carnal concept of the church didn't begin in our generation. In fact, the church has always struggled with this to some degree. It was happening in the church at Corinth, which is why the Apostle Paul was so stern in his first letter to them regarding what he called their carnal behavior—dividing up into little groups because of their personal preferences and opinions; arguing over who was the best preacher or pastor—the very same things we hear today.
Paul said this kind of behavior not only revealed their lack of spiritual growth, but, because they were "walking like mere men" (1 Cor. 3:4), in their witness for Christ they were no different from those who were unsaved.
But it was during the Great Awakenings of the eighteenth century, that a major shift occurred in the doctrine of the church—the results of which are still affecting the church today. That century was the era of the great revivals, when the Holy Spirit moved upon the church in ways the people had not seen before, and thousands of people were gloriously saved in revival crusades all across Europe and then to America.
But rather than give God the glory for the great things He had done, man began to see how he could produce those same results through different methods and techniques, in the hopes of keeping the revival going.