Fixing an Effete western Church
“The fact is that we are not today producing saints. We are making converts to an effete type of Christianity that bears little resemblance to that of the New Testament. The average so-called Bible Christian in our times is but a wretched parody on true sainthood. Yet we put millions of dollars behind movements to perpetuate this degenerate form of religion and attack the man who dares to challenge the wisdom of it.” A.W. Tozer.
“What is unconscionable is that Western Christians, given all that history and the Bible teaches them, should fall into the same deconstructionist malaise. Christians, have no excuse, they should understand the times and act both prophetically and practically to stand for the cardinal values that are the bedrock of Western Civilisation.” From Chapter Three.
“…we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions, replace it with new insights… we want to move people from dependency on the church to a growing independent partnership with the church.” Executive Pastor: Willow Creek.
A Church saddled with the burdens I have just described is in no condition to take on its enemies and will continue to wander the wastelands. Those engaging with public square issues already, but doing so within a secular context, are very unlikely to bring down the neo-liberal humanist edifice. Any difference they make will be at the margins. To emphasise the Church’s weak state I will start this chapter by ranging over specific features within the four conditions already discussed to emphasise aspects of the Church’s parlous state.
Gone over to the enemy
The accumulated effect of all that has been said so far has been to produce a Western Christian community which (once again, in an aggregate sense) exhibits some of the worst characteristics of the Humanist and corporatist politico-social model. It is difficult to see how or why our God would bless a Church that has followed the perverse example of Israel and Judah in seeking accommodations with the secular world. Just as God’s chosen people sought security in alliances with their bigger neighbours the Church looks for (a false) acceptability and security in these ways:
· Supports political parties upholding policies related to marriage, family, the right to life, justice and the protection of the innocent contrary to God’s explicit commands.
· Fails to challenge usurious financial systems – again, contrary to God’s explicit commands.
· Makes no effort to sustain attacks on Humanist policies damaging millions and inhibiting individual Imago Dei potential and a knowledge of God on a mass scale.
· Is similarly anti-democratic. Just as the secular world ignores rule by consent (real democracy), churches are often governed by an imperious leadership that disdains the priesthood of all believers.
· Accretes wealth and power in similar fashion to the secular political and commercial elite.
· Has reduced Christianity to an ever shrinking set of core beliefs with everything else open to pseudo-Christian or secular interpretations (Examples: Marriage, family, morality, education, government and economic systems).
· Celebrates many aspects of a corporatist model, with its emphasis on financial success, size, control and ‘market’ dominance.
· Uses systems of governance that help create a compliant laity with few defences against the wider world’s submission to the materialist and intellectually barren Toynbee Effect.
· Assumes success has to be measured in worldly terms rather than in obedience to God’s commands.
Off the road
A feeble, or, as Tozer put it, an effete Church, is ‘ashamed of the gospel’ (Romans 1:16). Its weakened state has forced it off the Apostle Paul’s Roman Road. Here are some examples:
Ashamed of creator God: There is little said about God the creator (Romans 1:20-21). Those entering the church and those already in it are not encouraged to grow in their understanding of God as the creator of the cosmos. A Louis Giglio DVD on the cosmos’ immensity is nice but a reluctance to openly acknowledge God as the creator ex nihilo is almost certainly due to fear of the first enemy identified earlier; evolutionary naturalism. Being exposed to the ridicule of evolutionists is avoided. Church elders know many in the church have accepted evolutionary explanations for origins and want to avoid challenging their secular conditioning. If Christians are ashamed of this facet of biblical truth they will easily renege on other key doctrines.
Ashamed of the Lord Jesus: Christians who are not squarely facing their God as creator will find it difficult to accept him as Lord (Romans 10:9-10). Exploring the full implications of the Lordship of Jesus Christ beyond the doctrine of salvation is not widespread. They look at his character and teaching, not his lordship. His commands and precepts are treated as nice benchmarks rather than immutable laws. A liberal interpretation of God’s grace hijacks holiness.
Ashamed of sin: The pervasive nature and presence of sin is understated (Romans 3:23; Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38). It is certainly mentioned but without the clarity needed to help people see its general character in the whole of life and across the world. It is reduced to merely the day to day things we do wrong. Without a broader understanding of the width and depth of sin the Church is ashamed to use the Gospel and God’s commands prophetically and evangelistically in the wider community. Absent is the role the church should be playing in discrediting the Humanist world view and extolling real Truth. In such a vacuum the church cannot love its neighbour beyond the good but very limited confines of friendship evangelism and social service.
Ashamed of confession: This may seem like a small point, but baptisms are often not connected to a proper and public confession of faith (Romans 10:9-10). Since baptism is not necessary for salvation it seems obvious that it was inaugurated as a basis for a confession of faith. Heart and mind are supposed to come together in a symbolic act of transformation. Without a baptismal confession there is no reinforcement within the Church of the real and deep significance of Christ’s death and resurrection for each individual. Recognition of what lies at the heart of faith in Christ Jesus is missing.
Ashamed of transformational thinking: The Roman Road is supposed to be transforming. It is not simply a feeder lane onto the highway of an existing lifestyle (Romans 12:1-2). The widespread belief that it is not intellect and knowledge that matters but one’s ‘heart’ tends to scuttle the significance of Romans 12:2b: “… but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”, or the Great Command (Matthew 22:37b): “love the Lord your God with… all your mind”.
A diluted love for neighbour: Having wandered off the Roman Road it is hardly surprising that there has been little development of a Christian world view. Without grasping the depth and breadth of the love-your-neighbour command the Church lacks sufficient concern for all those things, done in the name of atheistic Humanism, that denies holiness, God’s commands and harm or destroy people in the process. Jesus illustrated the Great Command by giving us the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:27-37). The example is outward looking, community centred and practical. There is no hint of an introspective, church-centred faith. Churches acknowledge the importance of loving your neighbour but they hobble it with some good deeds done when hurting people arrive on their doorstep. They walk past those in the wider community who are the victims of all that falsely masquerades as truth.
The five fold ministry
It is no surprise that churches wander from the straight and narrow when there is little deliberate effort made to build eldership around the five ministries of Ephesians 4:11; apostleship (missions and church planting), the prophetic (forth-telling into our times), evangelism, teaching and pastoral care. Churches should be appointing mature people to eldership with a proven record or gifting around these ministries for the purposes clearly stated in Ephesians 4:12-16. From that position of strength the Church is then ready to challenge the world. Poor church leadership is bound to follow when elders are appointed to support the ministry of a pastor instead. ‘Pastor’ is only mentioned a few times in the Bible but it has become synonymous with church ‘kingship’ and priesthood. Given the pastor-as-high-priest emphasis it is not surprising that we see the following:
- A lack of real concern for ministries, evangelism and other forms of engagement that address the problem. Those in the church have little motivation to explore their own ministry potential if it lies outside the pastor’s interests. Anyone wanting to go out and do something beyond the confines of the pastor’s vision is on their own. In worst case situations they may be seen as rebelling against the pastor’s authority and ostracised.
- The teaching programme is restrictive. Only those supporting the pastor’s vision are given an opportunity to speak and even when rich veins of biblical wisdom are tapped they are rarely explored.
- A group think subservience builds around the dominant person or people and is then actively encouraged. Tunnel vision can then cripple the church. There is no foundation laid in critical thinking (Acts 17). In fact, contrary to Scripture, it can be actively discouraged or ignored if it is present.
- Addictive behaviour common to most churches becomes embedded. There is little room for organic growth in the knowledge of God. Activities follow restricted and largely unchanging patterns. While God and his doctrines, laws and ways are unchanging, churches should always be alive to the opportunities and challenges presented by the times in which they live. But, recent history confirms a general failure, even a refusal, to understand and act according to our times.
Matthew 16:3b “…You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times”. (See also Luke 12:54-56).
The big Sunday
The traditional Sunday worship service is observed with religious zeal. Again this is not wrong, but form has come to replace substance. Services have become theatre - a performance choreographed to suit the few who strut the stage. Singing songs dominates worship and the 1 Corinthians 14 model for Christians gathered is neglected. In fact the emphasis on size and numbers works against this biblical model. Passivity in the face of a dominant pastor/wife team is endemic and midweek home groups, devoted to people’s opinions and sentiments do little to ameliorate the superficiality encouraged by an over emphasis on the Sunday liturgy. The ‘big Sunday’ smacks of temple worship and serves to perpetuate many of the weaknesses endemic in many church cultures.
The lines of weaknesses running through the Church have left it exposed to a self-justifying
and hobbled piety. A dedication to regular worship, devotional reading, prayer and other practices is good but its scope and impact is heavily muted when mixed up with a diluted Christian world view, myopic perspectives, the hubris of misguided leadership, a religious culture that clings to clichés like ‘legalism’, ‘judge not’ and exaggerates grace beyond antinomian limits.
A lost power
Under current leadership the Church is missing from the social milieu. It has lost its identity and with it a sense of calling to a higher cause that transcends time and circumstances. Instead it tries to find common cause with our post-modern times. Churches dodge confronting their communities. There is no real reliance on the power of God to convict people by the power of his word and the great truths it embodies, both for salvation and holy living. No one is drawn to hear what the Church has to say on the issues of the day, because it has very little to say. There is no contending, ‘as one man for the faith of the Gospel’, because assaulting the enemies across the Jordan is not even contemplated. Conviction and habit have convinced it that its arid wilderness condition is normal. It has lost touch with the spirit behind these verses:
“Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Matthew 22:29 (See also Mark 12:24).
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” Matthew 11:12 (See also Luke 16:16).
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you, or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel, without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.” Philippians 1: 27-28.
Although Western Civilisation has slid into moral decline the comprehensive failure of the priesthood of all believers to act as salt and light continues for the reasons described here. A ‘stiff necked’ blindness to the essence of God’s commands lies behind this failure (Nehemiah 9:16). The central importance of the Ten Commandments, the Great Commandment, and the Golden Rule applied according to God’s blanket concern for justice and holiness across communities, has been lost. The Church stands indicted for walking past usury and other corporatist activities that aid or abet wholesale oppression, injustice, social deprivation, materialist idolatry, environmental degradation and the Humanist exaltation of atheism.
Church building programmes and well choreographed audio/visual services will do little to improve the quality or influence of genuine Christianity – as the American mega church, Willow Creek has discovered. Doctrinal understanding, the bedrock of Christianity, is not taken seriously; hence, the widespread, inadequate application of biblical principles to practical reality. Upholding Truth and accepting the full import of ‘Jesus is Lord’ (beyond personal salvation) must be rediscovered. Without this foundation moving on to form and apply a Christian world view across the spectrum of social conditions demanding a love your neighbour response has proved to be nigh on impossible.
Jeremiah 7:4-8 is validated when church life is elevated above the greater need for an effective Gospel-centred Christian witness in the world. There is a lack of urgency in the Christian mission. God’s word is applied mostly to the life of the Church and needs of individuals, when the Biblical model also includes prophetically influencing the political and social world with Godly wisdom and loving confrontation. The lives and attitudes of Christians are therefore mostly indistinguishable from their secular neighbours.
An effete Church has done all it can to avoid facing the fact that it has fallen prey to an aggressive enemy. Claims, made by Christian leaders to avoid Ephesians 5:11-14 have transformed the church from meek (strength in check) to weak (no strength for the fight). A range of common excuses raised to the level of doctrinal laws are habitually used to avoid facing the world. While they amount to little more than clichés they have been given the stamp of pious commandments which, if breached, mark the transgressor as a threat to the prevailing culture. This cliché Church fails to acknowledge the philosophic couplets of God’s economy; peace from truth (see Zechariah 8:16), righteousness and justice, perfection from holiness, sin to punishment, repentance before forgiveness, God unchanging and disobedient Man. A Church desperate to shield itself from confrontation with a secular world uses these avoidance truisms:
· We are relational beings and called to unity - avoids debate, critical analysis or loving confrontation.
· We need to be Christ to the world by building relationships with people – avoids other forms of engagement.
· People must be drawn into the Church – avoids standing in the market place.
· Conversion (not ‘born again’) means coming into a relationship with Jesus Christ – avoid expecting real bible centred transformation in people’s lives.
· Christ seekers embark on a spiritual journey – ditto the previous.
· Don’t judge or you will be judged – avoids a counter cultural stand on matters moral, philosophic and scientific. Christian world view principles can be ignored.
· Apologetics are unimportant compared with loving people – avoids prophetic engagement and world view confrontation; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 is abrogated.
· God is a God of love – avoids the God of judgement and the real Jesus.
· A clear gospel thrust at secular communities is using ‘a big stick’ – avoids confronting secularised communities with the Truth.
Crunching the numbers
In 2005, while living in the UK, I spent a day in London with other para-church ministry leaders reviewing a study commissioned by Campus Crusade for Christ. Conducted by Christian researcher Peter Brierley, the study repeated similar work done seven years earlier. Over a thousand young people aged 11-17 were polled to gauge their Christian awareness and understanding. The most stunning finding concerned their understanding of salvation. Those believing they would go to heaven by accepting Jesus Christ as their saviour had dipped sharply over just seven years from 66% to only 28%. Confusion also surrounded their understanding of Christianity. For example:
- Only 58% believed Jesus rose from the dead.
- 35% believed all religions led to God.
- Only 45% believed the Bible was accurate in all its teachings and only 33% believed judgement by God followed death.
- Less than 40% said they looked to the Bible for moral guidance.
The study found young people were trending towards a more hedonistic lifestyle. They placed less value on natural parents and formed their world view through friends and exposure to mass media. Lifestyle, money and health were valued most. Having a close personal relationship with God had plummeted 41% since the earlier study. Far from being unique to the UK, similar studies in the USA have come up with similar findings.
American pollster George Barna has reported only 15% of those who attend churches in the USA rank their faith as their top priority. Less than half (41%) of over 6,000 adults surveyed in 2001 believed that the Bible was trustworthy. Fifty-seven percent of Baptists believed works plays a part in salvation and 47% believe Jesus was not sinless. Little wonder that Barna has discovered (2006) that of the 38% of Americans who called themselves evangelical only 8% actually fitted the doctrinal criteria. These alarming statistics point to a Western Church that has veered off the narrow road. The most poignant figures to come out of the USA relate to the haemorrhaging of young people from the Church. According to Dr Noble of Summit Ministries a massive 80% of young southern Baptists leave that denomination, with some returning in later life. Across all denominations the figure is believed to be around 65%. Young people, raised in the Church, who go to university, also leave the Church in large numbers and many never return.
These statistics have obviously prompted George Barna and Frank Viola to write Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of our Christian Practices (2008) where they expose the unbiblical nature of the many church practices common today. The available statistics point to a manifest and inter-generational failure of Church leadership that has left the churches full of effete Christians, with a poor understanding of doctrine, history and effective Christian social engagement. They cannot understand the times, they do not comprehend the Bible as transcendently true and they have no conception of Christian social engagement at the level canvassed in this book. There is no strong conviction that Christians have a higher calling on their lives and only a poorly conceived understanding of a larger Christian cause in a post Christian Western world.
An abandoned public sphere
As the Church retreated before the Humanist onslaught and left the public square it bowed before Humanist’s insistence that any religion, other than its own, must confine itself to the private lives of individuals. The Church as an institution and the Christian world view were both banned under the catch-cry ‘separation of Church and State’. Church capitulation at this level was not total but it was sufficiently widespread to leave the Church almost completely compromised and seemingly irrelevant. William Wilberforce and the Clapham group, Archbishop Langton at Runnymede, Patrick before the Hill of Tara and James Madison penning the USA Constitution would have been astounded that the Church could even think of leaving social policy to the unsaved.
The Church has chosen to do little in the face of mounting opposition and a wholesale abandonment of Christianity. The Bible is ignored. In the parables of the wise virgins, the talents and the mina’s Jesus exhorts his people to remain active in his affairs until he returns. There is no excuse for those that do not do so. The general failure of the Church to stand for the faith represents a comprehensive failing. Metaphorically and in respect to the problem, the Church’s abandonment theology has been tantamount to burying its talents in the ground.
The social cost
The Church has fallen well short of its first love – a love for God, reflected also in a love for our fellow man (Revelation 2:4). Granted, many in the Western church are generous to a fault; giving of their time, money and energy in many noble social and missionary causes. This ambulance at the bottom of the cliff activity, while laudable, has ignored the cliff top. After the fact ministry cannot excuse neglecting before the fact harm prevention. The principle expounded by Jesus in Matthew 23:23 has been lost, or as Barnes’ New Testament Notes interprets the verse:
“Attention to even the smallest points of the law of God is proper, but it should not interfere with the higher and more important parts of that law.”
A Church that helps those in need has also chosen to ignore the causes of that need, not to mention the weaknesses in itself and the unabashed attacks on the veracity of faith, God and the Bible. Chief amongst the examples of this negligence are to be found in the Church’s manifest failure to:
· Oppose Humanism, especially in its strongholds – politics, academia, the mass media and entertainment. It has been allowed to lead people away from God and into harms way with barely any sustained resistance from the Church.
· Expose the corporate world’s cynical exploitation of materialism, labour markets, third world economic weakness fuelled by usury (interest bearing debt), nepotism and unregulated financial markets. There is no love for our neighbour in this neglect with all its attendant damage to people on a global scale.
· Equip Christians with the ability to stand up counter-culturally in communities, in defence of faith and holiness. The Christian process of sanctification fails, therefore, to carry counter-culturally into the public sphere.
· Resist the liberal deconstruction, within the Church, of a properly biblical faith. The ‘true worshipers’ ‘in truth’, have failed to defend that truth.
· Remain counter culturally distinct within the secular world. An under-developed Christian world view has left Christians barely able to distinguish between the profane and the profound. Hence, their easy acceptance of secular politics and mores.
· Uphold a Christian world view and the perfection principle by opposing government policy antithetical to God’s commands and principles.
On these counts the Church stands guilty. To its shame it has largely ignored the Humanist assault on morality, the existence of God and human nobility and supported political parties supporting policies God hates. Christians without a world view centred on the supremacy of God have wrongly defaulted to a secular emphasis on positive law and the state. The widespread harm to people, caused by so much social policy, could have been resisted far more vigorously and fails to reflect a broad concern for our neighbour. In Jesus’ time ordinary people could do little to change the prevailing order, but in our times the power to change policy and stand for what is right is far greater. Our access to God’s full revelation is also more complete and accessible. Conscience and a strong sense of natural justice, fuelled by a strong biblical mandate, should have prompted a far more vigorous defence of biblical commands and precepts. The love of God demands it and a love for those commands would overcome resignation to the world as it is:
“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:3-4.
“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” John 15:10.
This indictment on the Church also extends to the problem with the corporate world. While Christianity may have sparked the rise of classical capitalism there is no sanction in the Bible for usury when it harms others and promotes greed, consumerist idolatry, environmental harm, the usurpation of legitimate government, exploitation and oppression. Humanism and corporatism have played a complementary role in tearing the heart and the Christian consensus from Western Civilisation. At a spiritual level they have cooperated in an assault on Man made in God’s image. The Church’s failure to properly stand for the cardinal world view principles; free will, individual responsibility, love for God and neighbour and obedience to God’s commands, has left it bereft of ideas and influence in the most important areas pertaining to temporal life. Because so many leaders blanch at the thought of upsetting anyone, Christians have been sapped of their courage to confront the Humanist and corporatist policy that is harming so many people. Thus the Church fails to perform in the very area closest to God’s heart. As he said through the prophet Haggai:
“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. ‘Why?’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house’.” Haggai 1:9.
A Christian voice in democracy, social welfare, economics, education, commerce, health, environmental protection, foreign policy and human rights has gone begging. The Christian’s spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, corporate worship and evangelism do not require abandonment of the public square. The Church needs to heal itself; it needs to get back to Isaiah 58.
Because the Church has consigned itself to the wilderness it has adapted itself to its chosen environment. It would rather stay amidst the sand and rocks and make the best of it with lights, music and caffeine fix conferences. As long as water springs from the rock and manna is there to gather, avoiding battle with God’s enemies is preferred. The Joshuas and Calebs marking the path to the Jordan are ignored. What needs to change? How can the Church regain its strength and sense of purpose?
Fixing the Church
If the Church is to stand up with authority and dignity in the Western world it must remake itself, but its ability to do so is hamstrung by its current culture, its leadership and its poorly equipped saints. This has left Christians exposed to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4) and deception (2 Corinthians 11:3). Perhaps the growing trend for Christians to leave established churches and look for a more authentic Christianity in small groups may be the Church’s brightest hope for the future. After all both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ shunned the synagogues.
Presenting a ‘reformation model’ for a Church capable of meeting the contemporary challenge requires contending with an entrenched culture supported, on the one hand, by a hierarchy of pastors who prefer the prestige of the failed CEO model. On the other hand the people, tangled in a messy part Christian and part secular world view, are placed where Elijah found the Israelites on Mount Carmel:
“Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said nothing.” 1 Kings 18:21.
The biggest obstacle to fixing churches will be the people themselves. Unless change is accepted and embraced for all the right reasons agents for change will face a reticent and defensive laity; a people unwilling to say or do anything that puts the status quo at risk. The skill of the change agent elder or provocateur will lie in overcoming resistance. If the Church had held the line last century much of what is proposed here would be unnecessary. Historically, the Church was in such a strong position that Christians naturally engaged in wide ranging social service and social action that was clearly linked to Christianity. Now the situation is quite different. Respect for the Church has to be regained and that can only happen when the Church takes ownership of all three facets of the problem and rekindles respect for ‘kingdom building’ in that context.
Speculations about the Church’s future mean nothing unless they are predicated on dealing correctly with two questions:
· How should the Church re-make itself to be an effective force for the times in which we live?
· What goals should it aim to achieve in defence of the Christian world view’s cardinal principles against the other facets of the problem?
The answer to the first question follows, while a response to the second question will emerge in the next chapters. Responding properly to the first question hinges, I would suggest, on a Twenty first Century reformation in six areas; Church leadership, culture, doctrinal understanding, social responsibility, the defence of the faith and acceptance of the ‘whole Jesus’. As it stands the force of all that is wrong with today’s Church creates a general tendency, for those not called to missional work, to assume fellowship, community, family and a range of help you (felt needs) ministries is the essence of ‘church’. The thrust of this book’s message is that this is all useful but cannot be done at the expense of more strategic concerns. Jesus said it in Matthew 23:23:
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practised the latter, without neglecting the former.”
Churches which continue to ignore their higher calling to larger concerns are only clubs with no more than a light touch on a social conscience. God wants more than 10% of ‘your spices’, which (with routine familiarity) becomes little more than cultural tradition robbed of real significance. Lying behind what follows is an expectation that Church concern for fellowship and meeting community needs will be matched by an equal regard for those who want to face the problem – those matters concerning justice, truth, righteousness, oppression and idolatry that are robbing so many people of their Imago Dei potential and harming them spiritually, physically and emotionally. A Church with this wider mandate will be really living out the Great Command.
Without a radical transformation in leadership the Church cannot hope to advance. Too many leaders harbour the Nicolaitian spirit despised by Jesus (Revelation 2:6, 15). The word, in Greek, refers to the unbridled exercise of power over the people (Titus 1:9; Matthew 23:8-12). This often finds its expression in special interest platforms, visions and agendas that sap the whole Body of Christ of its full potential. Many leaders have failed to authoritatively teach or model a correct mix of right doctrine, a Christian world view, the lessons and heritage of church history, social action, social service, biblical law and apologetics. Real servant leadership can no longer be limited to pastoral care, a dominant teaching role and unbiblical control over free corporate expressions of worship and wider service by a dominant CEO (Philippians 2:4). Christians will often follow a ‘charismatic’ leader and fail to test the leader’s theology and actions against Scripture. They are as prone to the Fuehrerprinzip as any in the secular world. A leader with a ‘vision’ can often lead people away from the free multiplication of their talents while remaining deaf and blind to contrary counsel.
True Christian leaders do not rule by their own authority. Instead, they are by nature equippers and servants (Ephesians 4:11-12). They are also on their guard against false teaching and prophecy – Titus 1:9 (Conversely: Jeremiah 5: 26-31 and 3 John 9-10). It is often assumed that a person with a theological qualification is fit for leadership. Serious questions need to be asked about what is taught in many theological colleges. The explicit or tacit divide between an ordained priestly class and the laity is unbiblical, creating a disenfranchised ecclesia. The priesthood of all believers has been substantially ignored (1 John 2:27). Churches must pay far more attention to the many parts of the body of Christ, within a wider social context, rather than the more limited context of the institutional church. What people are doing outside the church has to be elevated in importance.
The fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4:11-12 exists to equip all the saints for service. This has not been happening. Instead many pastors assume Jesus’ mantle of the good shepherd and expect everyone to follow only their vision and the local church culture they stubbornly create or uphold. The church Jesus is building becomes ‘my’ church, my bishopric and my flock. For accountability and transparency reasons leadership must move to real elder plurality, subject to regular review by a church’s body of mature believers. Individuals can head particular ministries (including teaching and preaching) but overall oversight and practice should not default to a single person. Leaders cannot be placed in a position where they may be tempted to see a group of Christians as their church. Instead they must see themselves as shepherds within God’s flock. True Christian leadership must be respected and supported with constructive advice and support. Elders must be servant leaders and not think of themselves more highly than they should. They must always remain accountable to the body of believers. They should be part of an eldership body with a collective responsibility for the life and vitality of the Church ungathered.
The Church’s salt-like, preserving effect in society has been absent for at least 60 years. If its salt has lost its effect then little more can be expected from within existing churches (Matthew 5:13) – as they stand at present. Churches must be re-formed or new churches must and will take their place because Jesus Christ is building his Church (Matthew 16:18). A Church-wide reformation needs elders imbued with God’s big idea, not their limited vision. Real leadership has always been about what lies over the horizon, not day to day administration, short term goals, or week by week routines. Love for one’s neighbour has been limited to the ‘gift of helps’, social service, or a ‘social gospel’. A much more expansive vision that embraces a defence of the faith and an open assault on the Humanist world view is required. Without it Christians have little reason to understand their times and forge the skills and strategies they need to take the counsel of God into the world. Future leadership will therefore need to:
· Be appointed by the people from among those obviously gifted in one or more elements of the fivefold ministry.
· Be accountable to the people against a clear and biblical statement of faith and purpose.
· Concentrate on the preservation of the true faith and the promotion of unity around large goals.
· Ensure teaching and discussion revolves around biblical knowledge, commands and principles, not people’s opinions.
· Ensure individuals understand their times and are encouraged to respond according to their own strengths and interests.
· Provide people with the means and skills to work collegially in areas of both social service and social action.
· Look for and encourage those willing to lead both social action and social service ministries – trusting them to do it and when needed, putting the weight of the Church behind them.
· Imbue everyone with a systematic understanding of a Christian world view and the ability to defend it using correct Christian apologetics.
· Break up existing church cultures in favour of a much more ‘organic’ approach to church life that de-emphasises large gatherings, the Sunday service and programmes.
· Provide training in leadership, followership and essential life skills (e.g. time management, goals setting, stress management, good communications, team work).
· Set an example in moral living, family life and work that helps Christians re-take the moral high ground in Western societies.
· Focus on the cause of Christ in the whole of life – the whole Jesus, the whole God, not just the God of friendship evangelism and foot washing.
Structure following strategy
In structural terms church leadership will move from relying on a pyramidal structure; giving way to a servant leadership model that follows Ephesians 4:11-16 and the biblical emphasis on a priesthood of all believers.
Under poor intergenerational leadership, with a limited vision and an aversion to challenging the secular world view, the Church finds itself in the position derided by Jesus in Matthew 23:23. Higher order concerns are sacrificed for matters of lesser consequence. The church gathered dominates the culture. The ‘theatre model’ scripts church gatherings. It was unknown to the early church and encourages dependence, complacency and superficiality. It must be replaced with a more inclusive, practical and participatory model that captures Paul’s intent in 1 Corinthians 14:26. Front-led singing and a sermon delivered from a stage must be replaced by more diverse and effective methods for involving, equipping, encouraging, blessing and empowering people. Sunday church and an over-feminised emphasis on personal needs and relationships must be re-balanced by a renewed focus on the local and global, transcendent cause of Christ throughout each week. The more masculine pursuit of ‘kingdom building’ must be reinstated.
Churches must reaffirm that the Scriptures are intimately connected to the power of God through the spoken word: ‘So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ’ (Romans 10:17 & 1:16, Mark 12:24, 1 Corinthians 1:18). Local congregations must band together around a shared and correct understanding of God’s purposes – the whole God. Fellowship and worship must not be the only goals, nor should local churches be reduced to individual fiefdoms. Living lives in community with a heart for justice, social policy and the lost must take greater precedence. A transformed Christian culture should look like this:
· Church life revolves around encouragement, support and teaching that are outwardly focused, and centred around big ideas, big dreams and hopes that cannot be vanquished.
· Success is measured according to the prophetic challenges, example and leadership offered to the wider unsaved community.
· People are readily welcomed into local congregation as seekers, but only publicly affirmed as believers once they have demonstrated that they are truly ‘born again’. Baptisms involve a public affirmation of Christianity’s non-negotiable beliefs.
· The ‘life of the mind’ is highly valued. Church libraries become places to frequent.
· All teaching, ‘new revelations’ and ‘thus says the Lord’ prophecies are subject to critical biblical appraisal. False prophets are expelled from fellowship.
· All Christians are skilled apologists and confident in defending the faith and sharing the correct gospel when it is opportune to do so.
· Living life dominated by a Christian world view is the norm.
· Divorce and immorality are rare and other sins are actively resisted.
· Everyone is concerned about social justice and all other aspects of social policy that relate to a Christian world view. Those engaging directly in this area are well supported.
· Sunday is a day of rest from secular pursuits. The ways and purposes of God and the perfection of his creation are celebrated in recreation, family life and Christian gatherings that are varied in form and purpose.
· Christians find their personal growth comes mostly in small group interaction, mentoring and the personal disciplines of bible study, reading, reflection and prayer.
· Expensive buildings are replaced with centres for teaching, planning, socialising, training and community activism.
· Wider social engagement by Christians does not lead to a mixing of Christian and secular world view principles.
· Every community in which a church exists knows its secular world view is under attack.
If Christians are to effectively challenge the secular world with both the gospel and an unabashed practical defence and promulgation of God’s principles and commands in the public square, they will need to do so from a position of strength. That strength must come from:
· An unshakeable conviction that the Bible is the repository of Truth.
· A detailed familiarity with the Scriptures and the world view themes running through the Bible.
· An active prayer life.
· Real trust and confidence in God (Jeremiah 17:7; Psalm 118:8-9).
· A strong sense that an outward focus is vital.
· A very good grasp of Christian apologetics and a Christian world view.
· Skills as an evangelist, centred on the Roman Road and the law as teacher methods (the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ…” Galatians 3:24, also Romans 3:20; 2:13).
· An accurate grasp of the nature of the times in which we live and the history behind those times.
· A commitment to goals designed to respond to the times (1 Chronicles 12:32).
· A life lived according to God’s commands and a Christian world view.
When the Church gathers these attributes need to be developed and encouraged with more vigour than those aspects of Church life that pertain to in-house activities and introspective life issues. A shift to a strong sense of shared purpose in pursuit of Christ and kingdom centred goals would lift Christians out of the lower rut of ordinariness. Nobility of purpose to which all the facets of our made in the image of God attributes should be directed would put the ups and downs of daily life in their proper place. Under today’s church culture that simply cannot happen. Bible teaching will need to move beyond personal life issues and the ‘milk’ of the faith. The commands of God, apologetics, church history, biblical law and their relationship to contemporary social issues will need to be given far more weight. The essentials of the Christian faith and the gospel will need to be covered on a regular basis. Unity in the Church around core beliefs is essential.
Sundays should continue to be a time for gathering but the standard plenary format and the building designs used to facilitate them, should be abandoned. The sermon, the song and light show, the common rituals and routines and the passive congregation will have to go. A wholesale shift to the priesthood of believers is necessary, since that is the only context to which the word ‘priest’ is used in the Bible. Forms of gathering should feature self-controlled spontaneity that embraces a body made of many parts. Achieving unity in Truth should form the basis for teaching, scriptural life applications, stories, testimonies, revelatory insights, reflections, song, prayer and worship. Elders should guide these meetings with structure and oversight to ensure there is order, direction and the identification of doctrinal error. All Christian gatherings must be marked by the fruit of the spirit and the principles of love described in 1 Corinthians 13. There should also be a strong prophetic element etched into Christian gatherings and the other gifts of the spirit should not be neglected, but neither should they be magnified beyond their importance (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). As Barna and Viola explain, Jesus needs to be ‘the practical leader’ at gatherings, not the invited guest. He needs to be more than friend and confidant. He needs to be pre-eminently saviour, judge and Lord.
A little more specificity is needed around matters raised in this section to highlight the sort of transformation that is sorely needed:
Purpose: If Christianity is to regain its strength and place as a vital presence in Western culture Christians everywhere must have some big goals uppermost in their minds, even if significant numbers are not gifted to play a direct role in their achievement. Those goals need to be common to churches generally. A set of really big (strategic) goals were recommended in Chapter Two. Here they are again:
Social responsibility: Western Civilisation’s slide into paganism and associated hedonistic impulses is subsumed by a renewed respect for natural law and God’s commands.
Human nobility: Man’s made in the image of God essence is grasped with renewed vigour.
Equality of opportunity: Everyone has the same opportunities to access justice and achieve their full potential as people made in the image of God.
Social capital: Social cohesion, safety and cooperation, operating free of artificial or remotely imposed constraints is endemic.
World view transformation: The Christian world view’s cardinal principles are highly valued as essential social policy standards.
Evangelism: Achieving a social climate where respect for the Christian faith and a willingness to hear the gospel has grown significantly.
Freedom from hegemony: All actual and potential internal ideological threats to democracy and human rights no longer threaten Western societies and are no longer imposed on developing nations.
These strategic goals represent the desirable end state; promoting the Imago Dei intent behind them. But, individual churches would need to select goals that instrumentally point in the direction of these strategic aims by focusing on shorter term, reachable objectives. The next bulleted list outlines the sort of goals churches must achieve locally if they are to play any sort of useful part in achieving the strategic aims. The first couple of goals should be treated as priorities but the remaining goals should also be treated as concurrent activities:
· Transform Christian gatherings, their purpose and the buildings used to host them, to make achieving the substantive strategic goals possible.
· Disciple Christians with error-free doctrine and apologetic knowledge and skills, to be mature in the faith and committed to a life lived according to a thoroughly biblical world view.
· Counter-culturally model Christ-like living that includes largely sinless living, particularly in relation to the serious sins that have been dogging evangelical communities; divorce, sexual immorality, fraud, theft and covetous materialism.
· Discredit Humanist and corporatist dogmas, especially those associated with evolution, relativism, state-ism, pluralism, usury, environmental degradation and materialism.
· Work with other churches to campaign for the adoption of social policy alternatives to current Humanist and corporatist practices – at both the local and national level.
· Place properly qualified Christians (the Josephs, Deborahs, Esthers and Daniels) and dedicated ministries in positions where they can provide effective leadership in social reconstruction.
· Re-establish community level respect for the Bible and Christianity as a whole of life philosophy.
Forms of gathering: If plenary gatherings are to be replaced, what should happen instead? Christians need to gather in groups to accumulate the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve the goals just listed. Such groups need to be interactive and facilitated to promote spiritual maturity, active involvement in ‘body life’ and the sort of world view commitment I have been labouring to emphasise. The form these meetings can take is limited only by the imagination, but they cannot be dominated by aimless singing, designed to promote some sort of low level spiritual euphoria, and opinion sessions. A typical Sunday might include a range of meetings that include communion, adult and child Sunday schools and a shared breakfast, lunch or evening meal. During the week further meetings may be held to further social service and social action agenda’s. Support groups might meet regularly for different cohorts within a church – elders, new converts, social action - social service groups and groups targeting specialised areas.
The content of all meetings must be oriented to building strong Christians who are able to pursue the means necessary to achieve the big goals I have listed. I am not advocating a baby and bathwater regime. What is required is an approach to Christian growth and congregational life that is organic, transformational, spiritual and supportive.
Doctrine and the gospel
The Church must make it a priority to distinguish between those within the Church who are truly saved from those who are seekers or merely converts to fellowship. Unless this is done the church will remain fatally compromised. People should not come to faith because they are told Jesus loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life. This is a misrepresentation of life’s reality and a false presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In presenting the Gospel the reality of heaven and hell, the pervasiveness of sin and the vital importance of genuine repentance must be stressed. As Charles Wesley acknowledged when teaching on the meaning of Psalm19:7, “Before I preach love, mercy and grace, I must preach sin, law and judgement…Preach 90 percent law and 10 percent grace”. Charles Spurgeon agreed. He observed, “They will never accept grace before they tremble before a just and holy law.” 
The mistaken idea that this will scare or offend people is not supported by practice, providing the right approach is taken. A misplaced concern for a person’s self-esteem or feelings must not dilute the presentation of the Gospel. The hearer must understand they are lost. Goodness cannot save them. Their very natures are ‘sin’ to God. But, this truth must nevertheless be delivered with sensitivity. It would prove impossible to achieve Church reformation, at the level described here, without the following:
· An unswerving commitment to the essentials of the Christian faith: The reality of the Trinitarian God, salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone; the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as a once and for all time atonement for sin and the God inspired inerrancy of the Bible.
· A Church populated by evangelical Christians, who prove by their actions and words that they have been ‘re-born’.
· An open commitment to love God by obeying his commands (1 John 5:2-3).
· A commitment to stand tall in the public square as champions of social policies that accord with natural rights and scriptural injunction without minimising the importance of the gospel, or compromising righteousness.
· A pervasive concern for defending the faith with all that suggests in terms of knowledge and apologetic skills in the face of vehement opposition or rank ignorance.
· A willingness to put aside differences on matters of belief that fall outside the essentials of the faith and the commands of God.
· A strong commitment to biblical exegesis with a corresponding elimination of eisegesis.
· A readiness and stoic determination to face ridicule and persecution.
Attempts made by the Church to stand against Humanism’s moral relativism are hamstrung by its own moral weakness. It can hardly lobby or persuade people and governments to return to moral responsibility when its own condition is so weak. When church leaders are regularly exposed in moral sin; when divorce rates are as high amongst Christians as non-Christians and when the evangelical community does not fight to end Catholic priestly pedastry no Church can hold its head up high in the public square without exposing its neck to the sword of hypocrisy. Why should the secular community listen to the Church on personal morality when it cannot get its own house in order?
Fortunately, there are other avenues for social action that are somewhat removed from standards of individual moral rectitude and they will be examined soon.
The Church must cease accommodating itself to the world and accept that it will only stand out as a witness for Christ when it presents a counter-cultural face to Western Humanism and materialism.
This is unpalatable to Christians who want to be liked by their pagan neighbours. Christians need to face the debilitating influence secular cultural pressures bring to bear on Christian living. They will need to accept that a successful reformation will largely inoculate the Church against secular pressures. Being countercultural, in the midst of culture over which Humanism and corporatism holds sway must involve engagement with society aimed at swinging social policy towards Christian values that mesh with a Christian world view.
It is important to accept that the old ways of witnessing to the Western world are no longer likely to be as successful. As we saw earlier Christianity made its mark by setting examples that the Western world saw value in following. The early church promoted education, monogamy, care for the poor, human freedom, scientific enquiry and a concern for the sick. Most are now well established. They no longer carry the Christian imprimatur. The Church’s task is to determine how they can continue to play a role in these areas that extends the Christian witness while at the same time forging ahead of the secular world in other areas.
To isolate the factors that would make the Church counter-culturally relevant needs to involve some systematic thinking that cross references a Christian world view, current Humanist policies and possible Christian alternatives. That exercise is to follow, but for now all that needs to be said is that a transformed church would:
- See social engagement as of first importance.
- Provide leadership in future social development.
- Set a counter-cultural example for the surrounding culture.
- Link involvement in social policy formation to a Christian world view, with its attendant focus on holiness, natural law and the Bible’s standards.
- Defend the faith against Humanist attack.
- Use Biblical principles to counter challenges to human dignity and rights, parenthood, secularised education, corporatist greed, and material covetousness.
Defending the faith
The Church has to put far more emphasis on the apologetic techniques described in Chapter Two, but it also needs to defend itself against internal schism. Some influential people are promoting ‘emergent (or emerging) church’ and ‘post-evangelical’ ideas that threatens to blur distinctions between a Christian world view and Humanism, while compromising any possibility of realising the initiatives proposed in this book. Ultimately, its adherents will cause division at the very time when unity is required. I am not going to provide a detailed critique of emerging church thinking (I will refer to it as ‘the movement’). Dr D.A.Carson has already done an excellent job on that score in his 2005 book Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church. My observations are limited to just a few overarching concerns.
The movement’s leaders; the likes of Messrs Gimball, Tomlinson, Bell and McLaren, are muddying what should be crystal clear waters. I doubt the issues around modernity and postmodernity that the movement champions are as complex, or as important, as they make out. Israel and Judah embraced similar postmodern ideals and God did not send his prophets to herald a new way that redefined theology and practice. Later, Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant but, once again, there was no accommodation with social attitudes. In fact in significant ways Jesus took an even stricter stance on moral issues.
Many millions of people can attest to the fact that on coming to Christ they found a clear road past conditions in their lives that were more often than not caused by adherence to Humanist values. The social complexities impacting on individual lives are a Humanist policy maker’s problem. The monkey is on their backs. The Church exists to signal a better way; to point to the narrow road to salvation, the freedom to be found in the boundary rules set by a Christian world view and the changes that are needed to overcome the harm done to our neighbour by Humanist and corporatist agendas.
The movement’s attempts at re-imaging the Church by reconstructing established theology is ill timed, misdirected and completely unnecessary. Biblical theology has withstood the trials of social evolution over thousands of years, but the movement seeks to transmute a propositional faith into one that is subject to shifting social mores, opinion and life stories. What the movement has missed is that the difficulties the Church finds itself in vis-à-vis its apparent relevance to the unsaved, is its failure to be the true Church. An analogy should serve to explain my point. The movement’s deconstruction of theology around matters like hell, the exclusivity of the faith and Jesus’ relevance is akin to heart surgeons deciding that because they are diagnosing more heart conditions they should redesign their equipment to register fewer cardiac symptoms. Obviously, the real issue is not the equipment but the conditions causing heart disease.
Christian theology is not the problem; the inability of people to understand or accept its significance for their lives is the real issue. The emerging movement shadows Korah’s back to Egypt error (Numbers 16). Holiness is re-interpreted by the ‘Levites’ of the movement, when all that is biblical, in its unaltered state, still remains unshakably, liberating and redeeming. They are, in fact, the modern embodiment of the sort of attitudes that afflicted the pre-exilic Israelites, who chose to mix and match truth with idolatry.
The risks of obfuscation, division and theological dilution far outweigh any benefits the movement might hope to achieve, despite its leaders’ best intentions or the benefits that might accrue to some people. Re-establishing Christianity’s relevance in the Western world needs to depend on a better defence of its tenets and a determined attack on all the evils catalogued in the preceding chapters. The movement is guilty of sifting gnats and swallowing camels.
It is and has always been clear that the Church should have no difficulty defending the existence of the one true God and the Bible’s legitimacy against all Humanistic, evolutionary and liberal theological attacks. There are some very good apologists who have demonstrated that fact for many years. The Church will only restore biblical truth to its proper place in society when it contends with the deep-seated secular beliefs that the physical world is all there is, that truth is socially constructed and that reality is only what we can see. The Church only has the ‘image problem’ touted by the authors of Un-Christian because it lacks both respect and faith in the power of the Christian message and its associated world view. If the Church cleaned up its own back yard, image problems would be replaced by a counter-cultural movement able to offer a distinct and different way to live life. Worrying about how the Church is perceived by others would be replaced by a deep concern over how God is measuring our actions against his commands.
To defend the faith the Church must stop seeking to accommodate the prejudices, mores and lifestyles of the unsaved. We must stand tall on Calvary and the social record of a faith that has led the charge in all the important aspects of human development.
The whole Jesus
Perhaps the biggest impediment to the sort of Christian social engagement advanced in this book is the contemporary Christian view of Jesus. The kind, inoffensive and caring Jesus is the one many Christians prefer. It is a comfortable non-challenging view. They do so either because it appeals as the nice road to a secularised West, or because they fail to accept the whole Bible and the whole God. They want the Jesus of grace, compassion and mercy, not the Jesus of law, holiness and judgement. They fail to keep their concept of Jesus in balance. The Humanist counter-Christian religion speaks of tolerance and inclusiveness and there are too many Christians who think they should find common cause with these aspects of the secular world view. They are happy to sacrifice Truth on the altar of accommodation. Unfortunately, it was the Jesus meek and mild who:
- Insisted on exclusiveness – he is the only way to God (John 6:14).
- Said he had not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34).
- Surprised people used to equivocation with the authority he wielded in speech and action (Matthew 7:29).
- Upheld the Genesis account of creation.
- Demanded a stricter understanding of the law; thoughts of lust and hatred amounted to adultery and murder.
- Upheld the parental right to call for the death of degenerate offspring (Matthew 15:3-6).
- Publicly reviled the theocratic leadership, exposing their errors and judging them (Matthew 23).
- Caused shocked dissent calculated to turn some away – “eat my body and drink my blood” (John 6:56).
- Proselytised for ‘the way’ that he knew few would follow.
- Turned away his mother and brothers.
- Spoke in parables of a time when people would be executed (Luke 19:27)
- Beat the moneylenders out of the temple.
- Confirmed that he had not come to do away with the law or the prophets but to fulfil them.
- Backed theocratic leadership into a corner, compelling them to kill him.
- Excelled in all the traits and practices of strategic and political leadership.
Living out a Christian world view requires a Church-wide cultural shift to the whole Jesus. Both edges of the Sword of the Spirit must be sharpened and used. The Jesus from parts of the gospels must become the Jesus from the whole Bible; the Jesus who sends out the horses of the apocalypse, who will judge the world with fire, who destroyed all but Noah’s family, who ordered the genocide of whole ethnic groups and who condemns the unrepentant to a dark eternity (John 3:36). The Jesus of the Bible not only calls the little children to come to him, he also stands before Joshua as the commander of God’s army and orders the destruction of cities and the whole clan of Achan (Joshua 8). Ignoring the ‘other’ Jesus has left the Church in a Laodicean state that is neither hot nor cold (Revelation 3:14-17); a church that avoids the giants, sifts gnats (Matthew 23:23-24) and prefers accommodation and compromise (“You cannot serve two masters…” Luke 16:13). This has little to do with the Christian’s ambassadorial responsibilities. By clinging to just one side of Jesus Christians remould God into a false image; breaking the second command. They know God has and will judge the world for the very things they see going on all around them yet they assume the Jesus of kindness and forgiveness prefers they look away and chant ‘judge not’ if their compromise is questioned.
A Church revived
A Church restored to full vigour by the changes just described would look and act differently to the Church we see today. Bible knowledge would have increased dramatically. Christians would become known for moral integrity, marital fidelity and social leadership. Christians would stand counter culturally silhouetted against the secular backdrop Claims that Christians were hypocrites would wither away. Christians called to a political ministry would be setting the agenda in social policy debates. Humanists and their corporatist allies would know their world view hegemony was under attack. Their usual disparaging and ad hominem attacks would be easily exposed and parried by Christians skilled in the apologetic arts.
Church buildings would be modified. The large auditoriums would give way to smaller spaces where Christians could gather to honour God by growing in wisdom, righteousness and fervour. Song leaders and those allowed on the stage will no longer rule gatherings. The stage will disappear. Large plenary gathering may happen from time to time but public halls can be hired for such events. Other spaces would remain for community outreach activities. Social service would continue but social action would be given equal weight.
The counter-cultural Christian
The ‘new Christian’ would stand out in both the humanistically sated secular world and amongst Christians who have not undergone a ‘biblical and cultural rebirth’. Their differences would be obvious. They would:
- Correctly understand the essential doctrinal elements within the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be able to confidently present the Gospel effectively to the unsaved in workplace, social or impromptu situations.
- Defend the faith against those claiming the Bible is not true and refute arguments commonly raised by the unsaved against a knowledge of God, defending and proving the truth of the Christian faith before atheists or people of other faiths.
- Live lives free of moral dissipation, divorce and crime.
- Lead the way in the public square on matters relating to the Humanist social deficit, democratic change, human rights, justice, sustainable futures and the overthrow of corporate neo-liberalism.
- Be able to offer or champion new approaches in education, health, social welfare, ‘social capital’, the role of government and defence.
- Call for changes in Western policies and practices that currently harm the ability of developing countries to stand on their own feet and improve the living conditions of their people.
- Work in concert with others to cause whole unsaved communities to seriously question their Humanist and neo-liberal world view assumptions.
- Discern exegesis from eisegesis and offer up well-reasoned teaching and admonitions on teachings they know to be in error.
- Teach others the essentials of the Christian faith and disciple them into Christian maturity.
- Use end times prophecies and world events to evangelistic advantage.
- Distinguish between debatable matters of doctrine or Biblical understanding and those Biblical truths which must remain non-negotiable – and do so graciously (Romans 14).
- Understand and apply the Bible’s main themes, commands and principles to life and society?
- Describe and live according to a God’s commands and a Christian world view.
- Model what it really means to live in communities rich in social capital and mindful of their ecological footprint.
- Take education very seriously and look to ensure children raised in Christian homes have a biblical basis to their education that ensures they will stand out academically, morally and spiritually. Those with the gift of leadership would be equipped to do it well and those gifted to support leaders in all walks of life would do it with energy, skill and commitment.
· Christians with this counter-cultural background would be in the strongest possible position to ‘build the kingdom’ both locally and on the national stage. Like Harnack’s description of first century Christians they would say, without a hint of hubris; “this world has been made for and carried on for our sakes. Everyone else is here on sufferance. We have the words of life, we have the truth”. At the same time these Christians will mourn for those who are still lost. In respectful, forgiving and yet firm ways they will seek to bring the full weight of biblical truth to bear across Western culture without being concerned about avoiding the approbation and persecution that would inevitably follow (Matthew 5:11-12). The question remains; how will they do that?
· One thing is for sure, church leadership will no longer be an obstacle, but an example. The pastor as CEO model will have gone. Church eldership reflecting the fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4 will be focused on building churches full of people who are prepared for social service and social action. Each Christian would be free to use their talents as they see fit either individually or in concert with other Christians. A love for God will see very few Christians just deposit their talents at interest. Elders will emerge naturally from the body of believers as their governance skills, teaching ability, pastoral empathy or outreach skills stand out. Above all these leaders will be ‘Men of Issachar’; they will understand the times and know what to do. The local body of believers will offer them leadership responsibilities, but they will always remain accountable to those same people.
 Willow Creek may have been regarded as a highly successful mega church but an impartial assessment of its success revealed that the spiritual growth of its people was poor. The quote is reported in Challenge Weekly, December 10, 2010.
 Willow Creek surveyed the effectiveness of its operating philosophy and came out in 2007 with findings that proved the model they were using was deeply flawed. See the book Reveal: Where are You?, written by Executive Pastor, Greg Hawkins and Communications Director, Cally Parkinson. Even these titles tell you something, do they not?
 The Nehemiah Institute conducts regular surveys with youth that replicate these disturbing statistics across similar subject areas. For a more detailed look go to www.nehemiahinstitute.com and Read Josh McDowell’s 2006 book The Last Christian Generation.
 Reported in New Zealand’s Challenge Weekly, December, 2010.
 From an address given by Noble and referring to Southern Baptist Research. I have not found the primary sources used by Dr Noble.
 Again, Doctor Noble stated that theologian Norman Geisler believed from his research that this was the youth attrition rate across USA churches.
 Often pastors and elders will protest that they are equippers rather than controllers, but behavioural scientists have shown that people in leadership positions often espouse an egalitarian, democratic intent when the reality is quite different. Furthermore, they usually fail to see what they believe they model is juxtaposed to actual practice. For more on this research the work of Chris Argyris and Donald Schon on theories in action and theories in use.
 Remember, the reference to prophecy envisages ‘forth telling’ from Scripture into the times in which we live, not extra-biblical pronouncements.
 See Pagan Christianity, p.82.
 Large congregations and expensive auditoriums were unknown before Constantine encouraged them in the fourth century.
 At a Church Liz and I attended in England for several years song singing was controlled by individuals who would choose songs from Kendrick’s The Source to complement something they had just discussed in open session. Each song had a connected meaning to people’s lives, the Bible, the mood at that time, or the guidance of the Holy Spirit during the course of a meeting. The musicians became servants to others and not chorus controllers.
 The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 warns that on hearing the gospel people respond differently. Accepting people into a church without this fact in mind leaves it exposed to nominal believers. It is quite common for Christians to take the parable of the weeds in the same chapter to mean Christians and non-Christians should co-exist within a church. But, a careful reading of the parable proves that ‘the field’ is the world, not the Church. The Body of Christ cannot be the Body of Christ if obvious unbelievers are allowed to remain part of it.
 For a good discussion on this subject and the quotes themselves , go to: www.haydid.org/spirit1
 Evangelist Ray Comfort has proved this with his law to grace method of evangelism that aligns biblically with Psalm 19:7; Galatians 3:24; Romans 7:7; Matthew 5:17 and 1Timothy 1:8-10.
 I would suggest the inclination to moral failure would reduce amongst church leaders if cultural change reduced them to servant elders, not high profile CEOs. Humility of purpose and rank can have a powerful moral effect.
 Ravi Zacharias and William Lane Craig are good examples. Lee Strobel has also served the apologetic cause well with his excellent books defending faith, the historicity of Jesus and the viability of creationism.
 It is not surprising that people like John Stott and Rob Bell have discounted hell, claiming death is followed by extinction. This fits the belief in a Jesus who could not harm a fly. A well known Christian figure in the UK, Steve Chalke has even promoted the notion that Jesus did nor die on the Cross for our sins! Why? According to Chalke, it would make God the Father a “cosmic child abuser”.
 Read Laurie Beth Jones’ 1995 book, Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership.
 Moving to this state would only be advisable when a church is thoroughly evangelical and a system of church membership based on sound belief and practice controls church affairs.