Das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten is the German proverb that we get our English idiom “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!” It is commonly used to describe the efforts of someone trying to get rid of something undesirable while in the process eliminating something really good. The phrase could be used to describe the efforts of denominational church leaders as they desperately try to hold on to church attenders while appearing welcoming to the culture. These efforts stem from all of the news stories we read and reports we see on TV that gives us the false impression that church goers are heading for the doors because we have lost touch with our culture. The latest of these attempts come from the Episcopal Church. At its General Convention this past week leaders debated making changes to the Book of Common Prayer. This book is used by each church during services to teach theology, worship and church history. It is basically an instruction book on how to perform different services in the Episcopal Church. The changes that have been suggested would remove the masculine descriptions of God in favor of more generic references. Church leaders are worried that the traditional wording is alienating the people who attend and it does not appear to be welcoming enough to the people who do not.
One of the oldest Christian denominations, the church foundation goes back to the 1500s when England broke from the Roman Catholic Church. Originally published in 1549, the book was last updated in 1979, revising the 1928 version, with its “thees” and “thous,” by adding modern language. The book has helped shape the language and doctrinal statements of protestant churches across the board. Changes like those in 1979 are necessary as language evolves but when we seek to reduce God to gender neutral we are changing theology.
That’s what can happen in the church when we begin making changes to look more like the culture around us. Without realizing it, in an effort to reach out, we transform ourselves to the point to where we lose the very core that makes us who we are. Other Protestant denominations have begun making radical changes too and early reports show a slight increase in outside interest but a sizable decline in traditional support. In other words their faithful members are now looking for other options. It is not that traditional members are not open to trying new things; they are completely against changing the core belief structure of the church. A new research survey proves this to be true. Members will put up with a new music style or new minister but will not excuse a change of theology. https://lifewayresearch.com/2018/06/26/churchgoers-stick-around-for-theology-not-music-or-preachers/
Cultural change happens and every organization that wishes to survive must evaluate these changes at take steps to keep up. However, you cannot lose your identity in the process of making changes. Theology shapes the identity of the Church and the Bible gives us this knowledge. God has established His expectations there and when we make changes to reflect our culture contrary to His word we break fellowship with Him. We might continue to use Biblical sounding words to describe ourselves but our actions will betray us. Maybe this is what Jesus is referring to in Matthew 7 when He says, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who practice evil!” Pray for your Christian brothers and sisters who are struggling with what to do with their denominational leadership. Pray that our Lord will show us better ways to reach our culture without sacrificing our theology.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
Serving the Savior
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