Changes In The Church
When I say that we need real change in the churches of today, I find nearly everyone superficially agrees. But the moment I say, " change," it seems to be the magic word for nice people with views I can't believe are real to come rushing out. Some of them have far out views that are so way out that I am floored. They can't wait to tell me about these views. Some of these views are taken seriously very widely and by many. Thus you are not supposed to listen and laugh as I tend to want to do.
Some examples are:
1. Eliminate traditional church doctrines. This has been very popular for some time. One example of this is to cut the creed and eliminate the words, "virgin birth." The virgin birth is the basis for the doctrine of the incarnation which tells us how God became man and dwelt on earth. It is a vital part of what the church celebrates at Christmas. Eliminating it is not at all appealing to me. It is about on the level of having to tell the children of the world there is no Christmas. I don't see how this type of change will help.
2. Change traditional Christian morals. This may be widespread but I don't see it as helping much. While visiting in South Carolina I attended church and was told the preacher's family was a Hollywood family. It included his kids, her kids and their kids. He had been divorced once and the preacher's wife had been divorced twice. I understood privately from gossip that may not have been true they were considering another divorce. I don't see it how this helps, but I felt sorry for the kids.
3. Have organizational church unions where two dying denominations merge into one big decrepit denomination. This new denomination is a testimony to show how the previous two smaller organizations were fading out faster than the Shakers. These organizational mergers also keep church bureaucrats employed. But the fight over who is going to do what to whom as well as who owns the church property can run up some big legal bills and very ugly feelings for generations.
4. Change the structure of the worship service. One person wanted to introduce the ballet into the Sunday eleven o'clock church service. Now this might work now and then. It is scriptural. The Bible records how King David clad in an ephod danced praise before the Lord as the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the temple. This might work if introduced properly at special times. But I'm afraid of it might reduce the regular attendance of the men. They may be put off by it and surely
will say the church is getting" pretty bloody la-ti-dah." But among changes commonly suggested, this is one of the few having a respectable flag of scripture to rally around and march behind. But I don't see how it is would help things much.
As you may note when I say real change in the churches is necessary, odd shapes, careless thought and phantom answers tend to appear and reappear. None of the gimmicks offered above are really very helpful when the main problem in the church today is that it lacks transcendence and spiritual dimension. The changes suggested it seem to me to be equally flat and totally lacking in spiritual dimension.
The solution to the tepidity of the church must be a rediscovery of our
spiritual dimensions in God. This is best done through reintroducing the practice of interior dialogue with God. The highest thing a person can do for others is to put them in touch with God so they can work out an awareness of God, a relationship, a dialogue and an interior life in Him, i.e. to walk with Him...
No engineering and gimmicks: mergers, cleansings of doctrine, moral amoral changes, organizational flim-flam will satisfy the basic cravings the people have for Christ. The wide need is for a personal knowledge of Christ. Truly Christ is not dead but sleeping in the heart of every person. There is sleeping in every heart the Lord Jesus who is but waiting to rise up and fill all selfish hearts with warmth and light if asked steadily in personal prayer.
The Apostle said in II Corinthians 5:14 "the love of Christ constraineth." This means that Paul had a friendship, a love for Christ, to motivate him toward positive goals and hold him back from taking negative and self-destructive paths. The Apostle maintained a strong spiritual interior life, a dialogue with God, that strengthened him for life. This transcendence born of awareness of the Christ inside helped to sustain him.
The Lord Jesus said in Luke 17:21 "The Kingdom of God is within you." This means you may find God inside yourself and even see Him in others, though they may be blind to the beauty within themselves. But before you are ready to meet God, you must realize there is one, and when you know of God's reality, you may then draw close to Him in prayer. Then He will be your friend and you will find His comforting spiritual presence inside your heart and on your mind even if the same God is also outside and everywhere.
What do the churches need to preach? They should preach God is real and the spiritual revolution of love inside that characterizes Christ does happen. They should preach the security felt in the spiritual discipline of an interior religious life as well as the pleasure of the personality changes Christ brings to those letting Him within.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.