by Dr. James Rasbeary
Proverbs 24:21 “My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change…”
Biblical Christianity is, by nature, conservative. We believe in a God Who does not change (Malachi 3:6) and a Bible that“endureth for ever” (1 Peter 1:25). The Bible teaches us to be “steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord”(1 Cor.15:58). We are told to “continue…in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of” (2 Tim. 3:14).
Yet things change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst. Change is not necessarily bad. Sometimes, a change is positive even within our churches. The charge often leveled against fundamental Baptists is that we are stuck in some past time frame (usually, “the 50′s”). While this may be true for a minority, it is not true for most.
I am disturbed by a thinly veiled contempt that some younger men evidence for their elders, considering them “behind the times” and “out of touch” with the culture around us. Having known and sat at the feet of some greatly used elder men of God, I do not believe this is true. I believe they have always been innovative men trying to reach people for Jesus Christ. I do believe that those who have grown up in this lukewarm, worldly, immodest, lascivious culture are simply less sensitive to some things than those who can remember when decency was more commonplace.
Personally, I am thankful for the elder men who refused to chase after every new innovation, fad, or idea that came down the pike. Why should they turn from generations of solid, proven traditions for new and unproven ideas? And, truth be told, though many were slower to jump on the “technology bandwagon,” most eventually did, incorporating good technology into their churches. I type my sermons on a computer, preach from an iPad (if tablets were good enough for Moses, why not me?), and use technology constantly in the ministry. And as our church grows and opportunities become available, I am sure that new forms of technology will be added.
The problem is not change. The problem is change in the wrong direction.
Bible-believing churches are NOT against change. We are wary of unproven changes – and we are against changes that violate Biblical principles or commandments.
Allow me to suggest seven principles or guidelines for when changes should be avoided:
- Change from truth to error, from scriptural to unscriptural. The Galatian churches changed from doctrinal to heretical by embracing a false gospel. I am amazed at how many Baptists will lean towards and follow men who deny the preservation of scriptures, salvation by grace through faith alone, eternal security, or any of the great doctrines that Baptists have always stood for and died for.
- Change from best to good, or good to worse. For example, the hymns do not need to be replaced. As someone has said, “We do not sing the hymns because they are old. We sing them because they are great.” When sung out and played the way that they were written (not cut to half time and dragged out like a funeral dirge), they are the height of church music, full of doctrinal truth, admonition and encouragement. And I should replace them for what? Silly little choruses that one preacher calls “7-11 songs” – seven words repeated eleven times?
- Change from spiritual to carnal. When things are done for spiritual reasons, but we stop doing them because it goes against the desires of our flesh, this is a bad change. We are to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts, not pander to them.
- Change from sanctified to worldly. This is, as Shakespeare would say, “the rub.” I am not against change. I am against taking the church and making it worldly. God saved me out of the world. He saved me out of the very kind of lifestyle, music, dress and attitude that I now see everywhere in churches. I am not against NEW music. I love new music. I am against music built to a style of music that comes directly from an ungodly world. I am against music that comes from a style associated with “Sex, drugs and ____ -n-_____.” The music sung in the Old Testament temple was not Canaanite music with new words. It was so distinctive that the Babylonian captors demanded, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion” (Ps. 137:3). Church music ought to be distinctively sanctified, not a remix of the world’s music. It is always wrong to change from sanctified to worldly.
- Change from modest to immodest. “Modest apparel” is still found in 1 Timothy 2:9. Of course, we don’t dress in clothes from the 1800′s. My wife does not dress in a “Little House on the Prairie” outfit. But modesty is still modesty. Christian women can still dress in a stylish way without being gaudy, frumpy, unfeminine, or accepting the immodest style of an ungodly culture. It is unfortunate that the dress standards of many churches are identical to the immodest world around them – or perhaps a half-inch longer.
- Change from distinctively Baptist to distinctively Protestant, evangelical or neo-evangelical. Baptists are a distinctive people with distinctive doctrines and practices. We are not Protestants. It is unfortunate to see young Baptist preachers following such and adopting their ways. How strange it is to see a “board of elders” in a Baptist church, instead of recognizing that the pastor is the elder of the church and that the only other office is that of deacon? Some are also becoming weak in their stand concerning baptism and the Lord’s Supper, leaning towards a Protestant way of doing things. May God give us a revival of Baptist distinctives!
- Change from principled to convenient. Christianity is not about convenience. It is about conviction. It is about putting Christ first in practice and not just in platitude. In the last generation, the watchword was “duty.” Now, all we seem to hear about is “convenience.” Our Christianity should be practiced with disciple and self-denial. Jesus told us that discipleship is about denying one’s self, taking up your cross, and following Him(Mt.16:24). I am not against being convenient within Bible principles – but convenience must never supplant Bible principles.
We live in uncertain times, perhaps a watershed moment for many churches and younger preachers. I am not against change – but I am not going to be given over to change.Change must be principled. It must be in the right direction – and the right direction will never be away from the Bible or toward the world.