First of all let me say that I normally do not respond to articles in newspapers, especially those of “religious” origin, so I hesitate to respond to this one. Having said that, there are some things that cause me great concern within this column entitled “SBC [Southern Baptist Convention] needs greater focus on revitalizing dying churches.”
I totally agree that the majority of existing churches are either plateaued or declining; all the research supports that statement. It goes without saying that this should cause consternation within the SBC movement. As autonomous bodies of believers our churches are not subject to “rules” passed down from the denominational hierarchy.
It was with great care and wisdom that the founders of the SBC made this clear to all of its member churches. The cooperation that we share as churches allows us to pool our resources for the greater good of the Kingdom. A great example of this is our mission work and missionaries.
I believe we are taking the right approach to church revitalization by making resources, people and suggestions available for member churches to use. It’s up to the churches to choose to take advantage of these resources.
We must understand that there is NO one shoe fits all worship style that should be forced upon churches. The demographics of the regions across this great state will not allow for that kind of thinking. Perhaps that may be contributing to the problem?
The problem is far greater than the worship style we may use within a given church. It is my belief that the problem can be identified in the statement found in the article, “We must be driven together to be all things to all people.” First Corinthians 9:22 was referenced as support for this statement. First of all, Paul was not a chameleon who changed his message and methods with each new situation. Nor was Paul a compromiser who adjusted his message to please his audience. He was an ambassador, not a politician! To keep this verse in context, you must go back at least to verse 19.
What a paradox: free from all men, yet the servant of all men. Because he was free, Paul was able to serve others and to set aside his own rights for their sake. He was a servant of God with a servant’s heart for God, not an ecumenical pawn!
We are not to be all things to all people. In fact, in Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks of the importance of the Christian influence. Verse 13: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”
Whether we like it or not, there is conflict between us and the world. Why? Because we are different from the world, and we have different attitudes.
I am mighty afraid that we have been purposely driven to be so seeker friendly that many churches (or should I say pastors) have forgotten that preaching the Word of God is abrasive to some.
We are reminded of this in Hebrews 4:12: “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Verse 13 even goes on to say that “all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him.”
People do not want to hear that kind of preaching because it exposes sin in their lives.
In no way am I suggesting that every time a person is at church they should be brow beat, absolutely not; but neither should they get a gentle massage with a feather duster every time either.
Perhaps a better suggestion to our seminaries would be to have their students spend a little more time researching and studying the sermons of preachers like Vance Havner, D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, and Jonathan Edwards just to name a few.
Another suggestion would be tell these young preachers to stop trying to be like some of the modern day ministers and encourage them to spend more time on their knees asking God to make them the preacher/pastor He wants them to be.
Call it modern, post-modern or what ever, but if repackaging the gospel involves compromising the Word of God, I’m dead set against it. I have great concern that many of these “new churches” in 15 to 20 years will turn out to be a flash in the pan that could not sustain the emotionalism on which they were founded.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ricky Browder is children, prayer and discipleship pastor at Rocky Hock Baptist Church in Edenton.)