It seems every denomination in America has gone through a controversy the last few years. One of Satan’s great tools is to cause confusion, disunity, and division. We seem to be ignorant of his devices. Apparently, what we’ve learned from church history is that we’ve learned nothing from church history.
The following summary of recent denominational conventions is adapted from a WORLD Magazine article (July 14, 2007) by Edward E. Plowman. As you can see, American Christianity is in trouble of forsaking the gospel and imploding. Once we do, we’ll no longer have a missions impact. We’ll be one of the largest mission fields in the world (in reality, we are already). While this article is a few years old, the realities of it are as current and serious as tomorrow’s headline.
The United Church of Christ has 1.1 million members. Their featured speaker was not then presidential candidate, Barack Obama. According to the article, “Obama claimed religious conservatives had hijacked faith and divided the country over such issues as school prayer, abortion, and same-sex marriage.” Today there’s an all-out war in America on faith and marriage. We are no longer a Christian nation; we are in fact a post-Christian, if not an anti-Christian, nation. The Bible is clear on moral and ethical issues. Without a moral and ethical foundation built on Judeo-Christian ethics, we are nothing more than evolved animals on the food chain.
The UCC endorses same-sex marriage. They refused at this year’s meeting to discuss a resolution calling them to “reaffirm the ultimate authority of Scripture.” Thus they refused to correct their decision in 2005 which said that “it is not possible to rely exclusively on Scripture for understanding marriage today.” Just so you know that liberalism doesn’t pay…they have lost hundreds of churches since 2005 and have lost millions in revenue in recent years. Sin, crime, and denying the Word never pays.
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church is dealing with the continual loss of churches that are leaving the denomination because of their liberalism. The Presbyterian Church in America is dealing with doctrinal issues and their confessions.
The Christian Reformed Church, which has 300,000 members and 1,000 churches, approved the ordination of women. Denominations are increasingly supporting same-sex marriage and ignoring the clear teachings of the Word of God. They want to create a more welcoming environment for gays and their families. I wonder what Martin Luther would say about that? Maybe they should read The Bondage of the Will by Luther.
The delegates of the Anglican Church of Canada resolved that same-sex blessings are not in conflict with the “core doctrine” or creeds of the church. Their leader, a bishop from Nova Scotia, is on record as favoring “the inclusion of noncelibate gays and lesbians in the life and ministry of the church.”
Meanwhile, back at the Southern Baptist ranch, some want to narrowly define who we are and what we believe. Having won the battle for inerrancy, some want to argue over proof-text and secondary interpretations. Any church that begins to narrow their focus and debate these issues will ultimately begin to justify behavior and decisions, ignoring the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. They will applaud themselves for being the “true church” while at the same time denying the core teachings of Scripture.
Many denominations are dividing and imploding, arguing over moral and ethical issues. Why are they having these discussions? Because they lack a commitment to the final authority of Scripture. They choose to make some creed, confession, or committee report their final and sole authority. They then choose to use, ignore, or abuse Scripture.
Others fall into the trap of proof-texting, trying to make the Word fit their opinions. Some will water down the clear teachings of the Word of God. Others will try to add a system or philosophy on top of Scripture and say they are teaching the Bible, but, in reality, it’s their subjective views. Some try to define what Scripture leaves in the realm of mystery. If you can explain it all, there’s not much to it.
In my humble and accurate opinion which I highly respect, a New Testament church is made up of people from a variety of backgrounds. It can be a home for rednecks and radicals, Gentiles and Jews, slave and free, white collar, blue collar, or no collar. The church that Christ approves makes room for people of different socio-economic backgrounds. It does not see race as an issue. All are new creations in Christ. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
I believe the “issues” boil down to where you stand on the virgin birth, the sinless life of Christ, His atoning death on the cross, His bodily resurrection three days later, and His coming again. It’s about Jesus – not us, our ideas, not thoughts, our opinions, our creeds, our confessions, or our position papers. If it makes people take their eyes off Jesus, I don’t want anything to do with it. Call me simple. Call me stupid. But most of all, I want to live in such a way that you could look at me and call me a Christian.
The New Testament Church is committed to worship in Spirit and truth. If you just have the Spirit, you can have wildfire. If just have the truth you can have no fire, dead orthodoxy. You need Spirit and truth. We need both to be balanced. All study and no praise makes Brother Stiffneck a dull preacher.
When you talk about being a New Testament church, you have to ask, “Which one?” Certainly not Corinth. They were filled with sexual immorality and people dividing the membership into followers of men. Maybe Philippi, but then they had trouble with some women who were gossips. Certainly not most of the churches addressed in Revelation. Most of them were told to repent or else. God takes seriously what happens in His church.
All of the denominations I’ve mentioned, and countless others, have a root problem. They think it’s their church and they can decide to do whatever they choose to do. My vote is to be like the church in Acts chapter 2. I’m praying that God will take the church back to the “once for all delivered to the saints” faith of the New Testament.