Tolerance and Change
Tolerance has become the battle cry of men and women from across our country. Special interest groups demand tolerance when seeking to change social mores. They accuse opponents of being intolerant for refusing to accept their new interpretation of long-standing moral codes. To be labeled as intolerant has become the leprosy of our culture. Even some within the Lord’s church are pressing for change and cry for others to be tolerant with their changes even changes that shatter long standing Biblical foundations. We are told that change is not necessarily bad and that we should be open to improving our worship services and even altering the terms for admission into the church itself.
Neither change nor tolerance is inherently a bad thing. We would observe that Jesus Christ was a powerful agent of change when he came to earth and replaced Judaism with Christianity. Likewise, his apostles fomented change when they planted churches of Christ throughout regions predominantly Jewish in thought and practice (c.f. Acts 2;41, 47; 4:4; 8:1, 4-13). These men were bringing change mandated by the Lord himself and were operating through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Sadly, change-agents of today do not stand in such a tradition. Furthermore, while some hide behind claims that they do not want to change essentials, only the cosmetic non-essentials, history proves them wrong.
How far can we go? What can we change? How can we identify the modern agents of change?
Watch for a change in the pulpit. One hallmark of trouble is a shift away from careful Bible preaching. Ministers begin to sound more like corporate inspirational speakers than Evangelists. Preachers begin to spout the words of denominational preachers more than the words of Scripture. They may even begin to sound more like Dr. Phil or Oprah than Peter and Paul. Preachers are charged to preach God’s word. (2 Timothy 4:1-4; 1 Peter 4:11).
Watch for a change in emphasis. A church exists to evangelize and edify its members. It serves its community by meeting the physical needs of those who cannot meet them on their own. Yet many seem to think the church exists as a human social organization; driven to post large numbers in the worship. While large numbers are desired, apart from the exposition of truth and the changing power of the Gospel they are useless. Changers tend to aim for a festival-like atmosphere often copied from the big denominational church down the street.
Watch for disappearing elders. It is God’s plan that the church be overseen by wise, godly elders (Acts 20:28) not the local preacher. However in some cases church members do not even know who their elders are nor have they seen them lead the congregation in any way. Some change agents are perfectly happy when elders disappear for they are ready and willing to step into the void. Know this brethren: Weak elderships and overbearing preachers are a recipe for disaster!
Many old and fine congregations have trod the path of destruction. Today, although large and seemingly alive, are in reality “wretched, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:17). Their once great congregations are today little more than the Exchange Club or the Rotary Club. Pray for wisdom to return to the these congregations and pray that we never set one foot down that path.