Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Year's End, A Time To Look Back

It is that time of year to look back. Some pastors and Churches don’t like to look back, but want only to look ahead. But anyone who has read Louis L’Amour[1] books knows that you must always look at your back trail to see if you are being followed and as a way of making sure you’re going straight. I wonder if such pastors and congregations who don’t want to look back have been influenced by evolution, and thereby think there is nothing to be learned from the past. They think we are somehow evolved socially and spiritually, and we cannot learn from those who have gone on before us. Still other pastors and congregations, frequently those who think themselves to be conservative and old fashioned, look to the past, but they look only to the recent past. This, of course, limits them to seeing Christianity only since the deleterious effects of Charles G. Finney’s decisionism and Horace Bushnell’s Christian Nurture have so radically changed the face of American Christianity.[2] Because they don’t look back far enough, they think their approach to ministry is the way it’s always been done. How wrong they are.
Better than looking only to the recent past would also be looking back to those times centuries ago when God visited His people with revival and great numbers of souls saved, times like the First and Second Great Awakenings. Those were times when sinners were converted to Christ, and their conversions changed the faces of nations, altering the course of human history, and even bringing about the eventual end of slavery in the Western hemisphere. But those were the effects of pastors and congregations who rightly saw their duty and task before God to glorify Him and to seek to bring individual sinners to Christ. If pastors and congregations today would learn from those Puritans and old English and American colonies Baptists, who were concerned with real conversions and had no thought of generating big numbers for number’s sake, the state of Christianity would be much improved.
Finally, look way back. Look back to the Gospels and the book of Acts, when the Lord Jesus Christ issued His Great Commission, and men acted upon His directive. Is there any indication that the Lord Jesus Christ wanted His early disciples to do anything other than make disciples? No. Therefore, let us not change the ancient landmarks.[3] Modern day pastors and congregations explain away the vast difference between what Jesus Christ commanded and what they do by saying, “the culture is so much different, and we are adapting to the culture.” To be sure, the culture is different. And we should adapt to the culture. But differences in the culture do not cause differences in the basic nature of sinful men. Neither do they justify in any way an alteration of Bible doctrine or Gospel ministry.

[1] Louis L’Amour, nicknamed “America’s storyteller,” was an American novelist and short story writer of primarily of Western novels.
[2] As Charles G. Finney adversely influenced Christian evangelism in the young United States of America, so was the Sunday School movement in this country damaged by Horace Bushnell, Christian Nurture, (Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press, reprinted from the 1861 edition in 1994), page 33.
[3] Deuteronomy 27.17; Proverbs 22.28; 23.10.