I recently read an article describing the continuing decline of interest in Christianity in the United States. Seventy-five percent of Americans claim to be Christians but their profession has little impact upon their lives. Most have no interest in Biblical doctrine and as a consequence have little knowledge of Biblical doctrine. Few ever pray. Few ever attend worship on a given Sunday and many of those who do will not tolerate a steady diet of Biblical preaching. The Apostle Paul warned of days like these: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. " For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:2-3).
So how have many churches responded to these tough conditions? Sadly, instead of following the Biblical command to remain true to Biblical preaching, they’ve succumbed to the demands of the masses; they’ve gone into the business of tickling ears. According to Tony Woodlief in World Magazine, “The Christian church grew when its leaders stressed biblical study and fervent prayer, each of which was considered, in the early church, a means of knowing God. The modern feel-good church, meanwhile, de-emphasizes both in favor of ‘messages’ that are ‘relevant’ to my life” (World Magazine, April 25, 2009). At a meeting with a local group of pastors we were told about how wonderful it is to be “innovative” in our preaching. It was shared that one pastor brought a Mini-Cooper into the church. He’ll be teaching a class for pastors so that others might share in his innovation. Do we really need to be "innovative" in preaching?
Some might immediately tell of the antics of Isaiah or Ezekiel to justify today’s innovation. But the actions of these prophets were governed by direct revelation from God. Are Mini-Coopers being brought into the church by direct revelation? Others might call to mind the parables of Jesus as evidence of innovative methodology to help in the understanding of the message. We can hardly compare our Lord's parables with today’s wild “innovations,” not to mention, we are told the parables were designed to hide the message, not to aid in understanding. The bottom line is we are nowhere commanded to be clever in our use of the Word of God. We don’t need to be. We only need to be faithful in the exposition of the Word. Paul said, “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2 ESV).
It is true that we live in difficult days. The temptation is to succumb to the modern innovations. After all, many of these churches are experiencing growth. Woodlief added, "Eliminate the theologies of Word and prayer, and all you have left is a competition to see who can provide the best circus" (ibid). May God grant us to be true to Christ and His Word, no matter what.