What does our age have to do with ageless truths and traditions?
For those of you who may not know me, I am a young pastor, thirty-two to be exact. I have been in full-time ministry since I was twenty years old. My first experience in the Lord’s work was at the age of fourteen when I began leading the music in my childhood church. Needless to say, and to God be the glory, most of my life has been invested in the work of the Lord through the local, New Testament church. I LOVE THE LOCAL, NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH.
As I sail through life and ministry, I have felt strong winds blowing in the last several years among men of my generation. These men have like experience with me. Most of us were saved, called to preach and trained in Independent Baptist Bible Colleges of like faith and practice. As these men have increasingly entered pulpits or started new churches, I have observed through social media and a few private conversations a restlessness and openness to change that does alarm me. There would be no way of being effective here without addressing these issues “head-on.”
Though there is nothing wrong with some changes, I am cautiously reminded that the Scriptures say, Meddle not with them that are given to change (Proverbs 24:21). During the history of the church, things have changed. Instrumentation in music has changed, buildings have changed, and dictating laws of the land that affect churches have changed. These are not the ultimate changes being mentioned here.
Inside the Bible, Outside the Box
To clarify, the Bible contains the mind of God. Second Timothy chapter three declares to us that the Bible is profitable for our doctrine (beliefs and teachings). When we open the Bible we see the mind of God, the heart of God and the will of God for us. We are to take our faith and practice from the Bible. What is blatantly described on its wondrous pages is our doctrine. The Bible is the box in which our minds are to reflect upon God and His wonderful work. Several years ago an acquaintance of mine suggested I was much like his pastor. He said, “You, like my pastor, believes there is a lot of grey area in the Bible and are willing to think outside the Bible.” He was wrong…very wrong. The cleanest life that might be lived is one filled with chapter and verse markings on our decisions and our doctrines. The old expression says, “God said it- I believe it- That settles it.” If the Bible is our only rule, “God said it- That settles it- Period, End of Sentence.”
There are new ideas that are “outside the box but inside the Bible.” If these ideas do not harm any doctrine or matter of faith and practice, they might be implemented without any harm to our conscience. Have some majored on minor points? Yes. Have some brethren broken fellowship over that which is outside the box yet Biblical in nature? Yes.
What is written here, however, is not of this sort.
I shudder to think that the following frustrations will lead to a whole generation of men my age leaving the doctrines and practices held so dear for a bowl of prideful porridge, while our birthright to inevitable blessing lay in the bosom of our Father in Heaven.
So, why is my generation frustrated?
1. A desire to duplicate a modern church than a first-century model. Thank God for Lee Roberson, Tom Malone, Jack Hyles, and others. We have what we have because God used them as a channel to the Twenty-first century. We have had great colleges where we have trained for ministry. However, are we in ministry seeking to duplicate those ministries, or are we conscious of the church of Antioch (Acts 13) as to make it our model?
We are frustrated, I believe, because of our own expectations. Christ said, I will build my church (Matthew 16:18). That is sovereignty. He will build His Church, His way. The size, the location, the congregation are His doing. Now, we are laborers together with God (I Corinthians 3:9), but Christ is at the helm. In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Our frustration stems from our expectations of success, rather than the expectation of the Great Commission, And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:20).
Let’s be honest. As a pastor, have you ever had a good day at church, and arrived at home tired and exhausted, grateful in the blessing of God that Sunday, only to go to twitter and read of all the “success” someone else had that day? Here, we have made a mistake. The Scriptures tell us to Rejoice with those who rejoice, and well we should, but are we comparing ourselves to others?
Do you drive by your town’s liberal church on Sunday, seeing its parking lots teeming with this week’s flavor of congregation, and say to yourself, “What am I doing wrong? I am preaching the truth, living the truth, praying and walking with God?” Be encouraged, friend, that our Blessed Lord suffered one of the most devastating church splits in history. John chapter six records that from that time many of His disciples went home, never to return. Was Christ a failure? No! Should He alter His preaching concerning discipleship? No!
The Bible says, But godliness with contentment is great gain (I Timothy 6:6). The enemy of contentment is comparison. Is the Judgment Seat of Christ not a great enough remuneration to you for your faithful and loving service to Christ? If it is not, be ready to bend.
It is not our message that needs amendment. It is not our Spirit-filled music that needs revision. It is not our preaching that needs to soften. Our King James Bible is not out-of-date.
Let’s be who we are. When the children of Israel were living in Egypt, God gave them Goshen, a land where they could live, rear their families, raise their live stock and be shepherds. In others words, it was a place where they could be themselves. Is Goshen not, in like manner, a picture of the local Church? It is not in the local church where, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, we can just be ourselves, offer our sacrifices, sing our music, and serve our Great God? The church is the gathering spot of the faithful. Would to God we never compromise who we are and what we do to make Goshen more palatable to the Egyptians.
3. Unscriptural Alliances in Social Media
“Show me your friends, and I will show you your future.” Do we believe that? Teenagers are not the only individuals faced or affected by peer pressure.
We must be careful who we “follow.” We are the books we are reading, the men we are following, the churches and pastors we admire. Paul reminded Timothy, But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them (II Timothy 3:14).
Every great truth in my life has a name beside it. Great truths are always identifiable by the whom we learned it from. Great errors are, too. I quote Paul again who said, Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? (Galatians 5:7).
4. Programs over Power, Media over the Message
Jesus Christ left us with an irreplaceable resource. “Whatever you do,” He said, “Tarry in Jerusalem until ye be endued with power.” There in the Upper Room, the disciples gathered. Pie graphs, power point presentations and iPads filled with philosophical dogma were not lining the walls and covering the tables. That room was but a holding cell for that mighty army until they be filled with Holy Spirit power. Pentecostal power did what man’s programs could never do. Peter’s message marinated in Holy Ghost unction did what thousands of well-planned words could never do.
Someone said, “We plan our work, but God is working His plan.” I am not suggesting we have no plan. This article is not to signify an end to prayerful considerations in how to get the Gospel out.
However, my generation is restless for results and revival. We want what revival will produce. We want to baptize the scores of Lee Roberson, preach the sermons of Dr. Malone and hold the revivals of Ham and Sunday. We want the magnetizing music of Rodeheaver, Alexander and Hart, but all our efforts at achieving those ends are but echoes of the past. We need the Voice of the God of Heaven speaking and working in our time! The question is, “Are we willing to pay the price for this great blessing?” Will we pray with all our power? Will we give ourselves to fasting and intercession?
Our sermons can be polished, pretty, pixelated, and prompt but will fall short until they be endued with power! Our songs may be melodious and masterful, but has the Spirit of God breathed upon them? Has it occurred to you that just maybe the old-time religion music is not broken, but rather the singers of it are? Our music has dripped with the honey of Heaven’s blessing upon it when sung in fullness of power. Need we seek a new power for our music or the Powerful One? Need we change the tempo or our trust from the vocalist to the Vicarious One?
The words of old-time religion remind us that, “ALL IS VAIN unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down.”
Dear friends, my heart is burdened. Before we tear down all the fences, let us stop and ask ourselves why someone put those fences up. The Bible says, Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle (II Thessalonians 2:15). I still believe that we as Elijah serve in the generation of thousands who have not bowed their knees to Baal, mammon or the culture.
However, there is a growing number who carry our flag and wear our fatigues but write, speak and rally against the old-time religion. If they are offended by the name “traditional” or “old-time religion,” may they no longer use us or our money to start new works under traditional premises only to change their positions when our money is no longer needed.