by Wayne J. Edwards
Following the Great Awakenings, man's passion for God and passion for truth was replaced by a passion for lost souls, and the theology of pragmatism began to take hold. Whatever brought more "souls" to Christ or attracted more people to the church had to be right because it was "working!" It appeared that God was blessing the method or that God had anointed the man. The purpose of the Sunday worship services shifted from being focused upon God and how His people could honor Him, to the needs of lost people and how the church could reach out to them.
And the spotlight of glory shifted from Jesus Christ, the Savior of all men, to those men who could attract the most people by their charismatic personality or their particular methods or style of preaching or singing. Over the years, many churches, and even many denominations tried to copy those methods in order to take advantage of what appeared to be a great harvest of souls and a great revival of the church.
But whenever there is such a paradigm shift in any organization, there is a gain/loss ratio that must be reviewed. For every gain that was made by some manipulative method to reach the lost, there was a loss of doctrinal and theological truth, as basic convictions were compromised by the very method itself. For every gain in converts by the schemes of men there was a lack of spiritual understanding on the part of the new believer, and that lack of discipleship resulted in a lack of spiritual growth, and therefore the loss of true, biblical worship. What was gained by the numbers in attendance and in converts in all of these extremes was negated by the loss of biblical certainty and theological integrity. But more importantly, the glory that rightfully belonged to Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone, was diverted to man.
Today, we are seeing perpetual innovation in the church as it adapts to the changing needs of people, and as it adopts the changing philosophies of the church, without ever questioning whether or not they are acceptable unto God. Today, churches are using every gimmick imaginable to attract people to their "brand" of Christianity. Trite and trivial logos have replaced the true Logos. Terms such as "user-friendly" and "seeker-sensitive" have replaced "Christ exalting and God honoring!" The worship services are orchestrated to bypass the mind and to excite the emotions, so that everybody leaves feeling good about themselves, even though they have not learned one thing about the sovereignty of God or about His absolute authority over our lives.
In Ephesians 3:1-21, the Apostle Paul outlined God's eternal plan and purpose for the church. Paul makes it clear that the purpose of the church is not to bring glory to a man, nor to the works of a man, but to the One who began the church by the shedding of His own precious blood-the One who holds the church together today by His love, even Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Because of that, to some degree the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ is in the hands of the church today. And because of that, what is done in every church on the Lord's Day will either bring glory to the Lord or glory to man. If it is done in the power of the flesh, no matter how well intended, it will fall short of the glory of God and will only serve to glorify man. But if it is done in the power of the Holy Spirit, and it lifts up the name of Jesus Christ as Lord, it will not only draw men to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, but it will glorify God throughout all ages, world without end.
We have seen, and are seeing today, what happens in and through the church when the standards are lowered. It is time for the standards to be raised again. It is time for us to raise the standard in our love for God, our love for our neighbor, our love for the church, our worship of God, our respect for the Word of God, our compassion for the lost and our preservation of the saved, and in our love for the family. It is time we raised the Standard of Jesus Christ in our lives so the world can see our works of righteousness and be drawn to Him.
It is time the church began to follow the model of the true New Testament church, as outlined in Acts 2:41-47. The people were in harmony with each other, in agreement over the purpose of their fellowship, involved in the pursuit of truth through the teaching of the Apostles' doctrine, praising God in their times of worship at the Temple and in their homes, in prayer of thanksgiving for what God was doing, in favor with believers and unbelievers alike, "and the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved."
In 1 Corinthians 15:34, the Apostle Paul exhorted his hearers to "Awake to righteousness and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame." I believe this is God's "wake-up call" to the church today.