Thursday, April 23, 2009

Seeing the Future in the Past: Chapter 1

Chapter One – Preface

The Twenty-first Century Bible-believing church is groping like a blind man to find leadership with boldness that secures for it a continuance in a burgeoning secular society. The Post-modern world is what the think-tanks and enlightened call this burgeoning new world. The post-modern world is that world created after the explosive development of science, education, psychology, law, technology, pluralism, humanism and other elements of academia into the decisive elements driving and determining human direction and belief. Many Christians are writing about the role of the church and more will be written. To our harm it will not be practical or helpful to the true Bible-believing people, and it will not address the truth of the scripture in many cases. For the first time, in nearly 100 years, we are once again being asked to define our role in a new and increasingly hostile world which demands that the church speak only when spoken too.

Answers to this type of secular attack, for the modern church, range from the paranormal of the charismatic to the isolationism of what used to be called the fundamentalists. Today, those who are Bible-believing are distancing themselves from the term fundamentalist, because it is used of terrorist groups and extremist religionists who do not define us as Bible-believers in this new secular society. In this demanding, explosive secular world of the 21st century the church is out of touch, seemingly irrelevant; not because we don’t have a vital message; but because we have no effective method or vehicle to present our message.

For some Bible-believing people and churches this means wholesale change in order to embrace the Twenty-first Century, because we are made to feel that we are out of main-stream America.

Currently, necessity has become the mother of invention for the church. It is not uncommon for many to change the methods or strategies of ministry. Sadly, this is not enough for some; they want also to change the message by including enticements of wealth, health, how-to, or positive impacts.

The true Bible-believing church must not change the message. It is understood that there must be change, to boldly confront and reach a developing, burgeoning secular society. Sadly, change can mean diminishing the message. The church must embrace methods which do not diminish or change the message.

Today more of the radical methods are diminishing the message by diluting it with rank secularism, eastern occult, and worldliness. This reaction in message and methods is piloting the Church toward irrelevancy or total assimilation into the current world society.

Change or Update is Necessary, but must be Biblical

The faithful servant of God must always update preaching and methods. Those who minister must remain diligent to recognize the basic new world which confronts the ministry of God’s Word.

2 Tim 1:6-8
6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; (KJV)

Paul obviously recognized the importance of bringing back to flame the gifts of God in a person. In this passage, Paul used the concept of gifts differently than the concept of gifts of the Spirit. In stead of the gifts of the spirit, Paul refers to a gift when speaking of a person who can be married or single according to his gift from God.

1 Cor 7:7-9

7 For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.
8 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.
9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. (KJV)

To Paul a gift could refer to a status that God has called one to embrace and maintain. In 2 Timothy 1:6-8, Paul is referring to gift in a similar fashion, a status or calling which one must embrace and maintain. The gift here is the status of having a calling to the ministry which has been recognized and confirmed by Paul and the presbytery which laid hands on him.

1 Tim 4:14
14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.(KJV)

If the ministry is to be effective, the minister of God must be aware of a need to rekindle his calling to the ministry. His ministry or calling must face a periodic stirring or bringing to life as one rekindles coals of fire. The need to stir our ministry can be accomplished by rekindling our preaching and methods in order to better face a new and more hostile world.

As the servant of God does this, he must remember that he is not at liberty to change the message. The message is God’s Word and settled in heaven. However, he must constantly make sure, that his zeal for the ministry given, and his knowledge that drives that ministry given is as current and relevant as possible, without demeaning or changing the message.

The hostility of this secular society should not discourage, but be a catalyst, literally stirring us to adjust and modernize our thinking for the sake of confronting a hostile system and reaching the people trapped in this system.

The Hostile Secular World

The hostility of this present day can be illustrated by a development in Oregon. The thought that a man dedicated to helping youth avoid alcoholism, cigarette addiction, drug addiction, sexual promiscuity, sexually transmitted disease, abortion, sexual perversion, suicide, suicidal rampage, and in general, the affects of a wasted life, would be told stay away from youth is absurd; or is it.

If you live in Oregon it is not absurd because that is exactly what is happening. According to a Reuters News Service article in 2000 written by Teresa Carson, the Molalla River School District has decided that Jason Rhoads, a Nazarene Church youth pastor, should not be allowed to eat lunch with young people at one of their schools. Ralph Gierke, school board chairman, said that the board would call police if necessary to stop the lunch visits by Rhoads. Indeed, they were true to their word because Gierke, another school official, and two police officers barred the minister from coming in.

When Rhoads was interviewed, he pointed out that his visits started two years ago while a real estate agent and not a youth pastor. He stated that his visits were prompted by the invitation of students, and he also stated that he did not preach, teach, or proselytize.

When the man is a realtor there is not problem with his presence on the school campus; but when that man becomes a youth pastor, he is unwelcome. Can a man who dedicates his life to the highest possible standards of conduct, morals, and purposes be dangerous to the welfare of youth? Obviously the answer is yes, if that man espouses a belief in God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Is this because of our message? Partially yes, the world fears our message, but they are able to practice this blatant discrimination because the Christians, as a whole, make themselves an easy target.

In April of 2008, I was recovering from surgery. I was reading a copy of the Florida Times Union (Friday April 18, 2008 Edition). An article, Corrections Worker Claims Persecution for belief (section A7), caught my attention. According to this article the corrections kitchen manager in Webb Correctional Facility was told to remove his Bible from his desk. He complied but is seeking legal recourse against the Delaware facility. He claims that other workers who are Islamic bring out prayer rugs and actually conduct prayer times during their shift.

Why is there such an obvious disparity of treatment and tolerance? Is it possible that a pluralistic society can accept all forms of religious expression except a Biblical form?

The degree to which this type of treatment is condoned and accepted in this hostile world is brazen. In January of 2008, at a “roast” for two sports broadcasters, a fellow broadcaster, in a drunken condition attacked the name of Jesus with such vulgarity that even the people present were embarrassed. This broadcaster was suspended by ESPN for one week.

In a related situation the same network had a similar incident in which they had to apologize for a comparison of fans to “Hitler” by columnist Jemele Hill concerning the 2008 NBA championship. ESPN wrote the following apology explanation.

"Both Jemele and apologize. The column, as originally posted, made some absolutely unacceptable comparisons. We've spoken with Jemele, and she understands that she exercised poor judgment. She's been relieved of her responsibilities for a period of time to reflect on the impact of her words. Within hours of its posting on Saturday evening, the inappropriate references were removed from the site, but our system of checks and balances failed Jemele and our readers and we are addressing that as well." Stating she was "relieved of her duties for a period of time" is a strange way of saying she was "suspended," but that's what this is. ESPN's most recent high-profile suspension was the one given to Dana Jacobson for her comments at the Mike and Mike roast. Jacobson got a week; no word on whether the ESPN brass considers Hill's offense to be better, worse or the same.

The final statement is very serious. Do the main-stream media sources of 2008 even view their bias as bias? The suspension time is not published by ESPN.

In a development less than 30 days after Jacobson’s comments about Christ, a newscaster questioned Hillary Clinton’s use of her daughter in her bid for the nomination of the Democratic Party for the presidency. He said that Hillary Clinton might be “pimping out” her daughter by using her to speak to certain groups. The newscaster was suspended indefinitely.

The obvious conclusion is that the disparaging remarks against Christ are acceptable and tolerated, but the disparaging statement against Chelsea Clinton is not tolerated and calls for severe action immediately. The remarks against Christ were not even covered by the major media.

Are we so out of touch with the secular man, that the Church has lost all impact on the conventional elements of the United States? Are we so irrelevant? How has it happened that a profile of a dangerous would-be cultist, gun-toting subversive includes a belief in the Book of Revelation? Racial profiles are considered racist; would religious profiles not be bigoted? Would it not be better to profile a would-be cultist, gun-toting subversive as one fixated on the prospects of the end of the world rather than a belief in a particular book of the Bible? Why must the Bible and those who believe it be maligned? The obvious answer is that the Book of Revelation is viewed by those who are in positions of authority as a potential catalyst for subversive action; and our methods do not clear that image.

The realty is that these anti-social isolationists do not teach the Book of Revelation; they simply have a paranoid, domination mentality causing a preoccupation with doom spawned by injustice, social ills, government distrust, and sometimes mental deficiency. But to say, that their behavior stems from a belief originated or fueled by the reading of the Book of Revelation is non-sequitur and absurd, to say the least.

Millions upon millions have read the Book of Revelation and have never become maniacal sadists. This kind of reasoning would not be tolerated with regard to alcohol. To assume that the close proximity or moderate consumption of alcohol leads to great evil would be soundly rejected by those who consume alcohol. They would argue that proximity and consumption do not lead to evil. By the same token, a person who has a passing knowledge of Revelation, has read it on occasion, or has quoted from its contents at different times does not justify associating a belief in the Book of Revelation with the cause of that person’s evil. Elements of influence such as movies, television, rap music, and rock music would not be given this broad-brush approach as to their influence for evil. Obviously bias must play a strong role, a bias which comes from a developed world with an inadequate challenge from the Christian.

While listening to a radio program in my community, I was overwhelmed by a talk show host who made disparaging remarks about those who believed the teachings in the Book of Revelation. I quickly called the station and requested a copy of the program tape so that I could play it in one of our services. I explained that I wanted to inform our people of how our church was perceived and portrayed by their radio station. Shortly, the talk show host was apologizing for his comments on the air. Shortly thereafter, he no longer had a show on that radio station. How can it be that a local radio personality feels so free to attack Bible believing churches?

The estrangement of the Church is even more far-reaching. It has become necessary recently to have a law passed which gives churches relief from religious discrimination. The law is called the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. What does this law actually make possible? It makes possible the redress of issues created by zoning authorities who intentionally or unintentionally violate religious assemblies’ rights to establish churches or use their properties. However, the religious assemblies must now prove such discrimination. The religious assembly must demonstrate exactly how the zoning law substantially burdens sincere religious exercise. The claim of discrimination can be disallowed, even if the burden is proven, should the government be able to prove that the burden is unavoidable; because it is the result of a compelling governmental objective.

This is one of the most serious issues facing the church because the church must build buildings and house people for education, worship, and service. If the right to freely pursue use of buildings, use of property, and construction of buildings is greatly limited then the church is limited in the scope of its ministry or even denied the right to minister.

One such incident of this type of discrimination was brought to my attention by a letter that I received with a copy of a cease and desist order. This order required a young couple in Denver to stop holding prayer meetings in their home because it violated the laws of Denver, Colorado. The couple was instructed that they could only hold one prayer meeting a month in their home. This law was not applied to Tupperware parties, book study groups, or other similar activities.

Most Churches are started by regular meetings in homes, which eventually grow requiring a church building. In effect, the city of Denver zoning laws prevented the free exercise of religion and more importantly the establishing of churches unless the church can build meeting places approved by the zoning board. In fact, churches are zoned out of general life in the modern world. This world wants to disallow any churches from being in close proximity to families and general locations of life. This is a serious burden on the exercise of religion by a fledgling church.

Instances of such discrimination are so high that an entire chapter could be devoted to this type of limitation of the practice of religion. Examples include restriction of times in which a church may be open, even to the restriction of types of ministries allowed on the church property. This is certainly a burden to the exercise of religion.

The potential for interference by constitutional interpretation, government regulation, court room procedure, or litigation introduced by well meaning appointed officials, elected officials, or angry skeptics is great. We of the Church are in danger because we do not understand the secularist of the 21st Century. We are totally unprepared to face the 21st Century with an adequate paradigm or adequate stratagems, which would make us comfortable in a society escalating its hostility level and lowering its tolerance levels toward Christians. The homosexual, the drunkard, and the violent generally have more sympathy for their cause, more tolerance; than do we who insist that Jesus is the unique Son of God in whom is salvation.

We are overwhelmed by the new cultural revolutions of tolerance and diversity swelling before us like a mighty wave with the potential to wash away our moorings. The hallowed words in modern secular paradigm for cultural development are tolerance and diversity. In truth, there is no more tolerant or diverse organization than the church of God. The Church combines men and women from every nation, tongue, and race. The Church is made of the rich, the middle class and the poor. The educational and vocational backgrounds are as diverse as the developed world itself. All have one unifying factor, not race which divides, not economics which divides, and not birth place which divides; but the blood of Christ which unites us all as one. It is this that for centuries has caused people all over the world to be unified.

Unfortunately, the modern secular paradigm does not mean this “out of many, one” tolerance. Tolerance is not allowing people to have their beliefs, culture, and habits guarded from interference by government or bigotry; but it is the requirement of those who have non-public opinion, opposing lifestyles to divest themselves of their beliefs, culture, and habits. Diversity is accepting anyone for any reason and including them in your values system regardless of whether they are diametrically opposed to your values. Any belief that condemns man as a sinner or worthy of punishment is divisive because it is judgmental. Expressing judgmental opinions is not tolerant. Judgmental beliefs are not uniting all diverse cultures. It would be better to be a sexual pervert than to be judgmental. Our Biblical ideas are obscene to those who espouse the pseudo-tolerance and pseudo-diversity.

We who believe the Bible are facing a difficult generation that wishes to purge what they consider judgmental Biblical thought, principles, and absolutes from the face of this Cultural Revolution. The Biblical thought is centered in one personal savior not a plethora of saviors. The Biblical principle is that there are not many ways to God, but one. The Biblical absolute is that there is “no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Does this make us divisive? Does this make us out of touch with 21st century America? Does this make us a part of the problem, and no one sees that we are the solution?

Are we the modern day religious extremist capable of killing abortion doctors because we are unhappy about abortion? Are we the modern day religious extremist that abuses women and children with demands of physical actions which demean them, subjugate them, or even bring death or mutilation; because we ask that principles of Biblical responsibility in the home be taught? Are we the modern day religious extremists that would practice compound isolationism because we believe that the Christian should be separate from secular mankind? Are we the modern day religious extremist that would deliberately practice terrorism by causing the death of a few or of thousands, because we believe that there are those who will go to hell and that they are an enemy of Christ? Certainly the developed world is ready to label us as such.

We also must face mainline religious organizations that by ignorance, purpose, or by foolishness bring reproach on the name of Christ by harboring deviants, or imposing practices which when brought to light are an embarrassment. The most recent example of this is the scandal that has shaken the Catholic Church.

Are we viewed just as the militant Islamic and the various factions that advocate and execute revenge slayings by suicide bombers? No matter how different we are as Christians the undifferentiating media and secularist sees all Christians as being radical extremists or as hypocrites.

The Bible is explicit that the Church is not going to win a decisive battle over a bias secularized developed world in which the Church is a sojourner. We are not here to defeat the already vanquished secularized world. Our role is much different. It is the duty of the Church to occupy until the Lord returns preaching and teaching the gospel of his kingdom; therefore, the Church must produce a paradigm and stratagems for occupying.

There are basic areas which we must examine in order to properly create a paradigm capable of producing adequate stratagems. The church ministry in the United States, church missions around the world, the present accepted wisdom of man, and post-secondary training for future leaders.

If the Church is to answer secularism and not repeat the mistakes of the 20th Century, it must do three things. The church must develop educational strategies through the educational systems that it supports; it must develop the church ministries that reach the disjointed, diversified populace; and a mission’s outreach that recognizes the changing world in order to produce Christians that understand their roles.