In many Western churches today, it seems that we begin with our culture and the way we do things, and then try to squeeze the Bible into it as proof that we are following God. Pastors make sermons with three alliterated points, and then add a few Bible verses to each point to make the sermon more “Biblical.” We see what kind of music our culture likes, and then we Christianize it to attract the world and to make it more entertaining for ourselves. We love the sports and entertainment of the world, and so we build gymnasiums and stages in our churches, but call it ministry to justify things.
Certainly, some good may be done, but then we dismiss any who ask about the old paths–about the ancient ways. “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
and walk in it.'” Rather than begin with the Bible and work our way out, we begin with how we already do things and then try to squeeze the Bible in. For example, if we begin with the Bible, we would examine the methods of evangelism and outreach used in the Bible by the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles. Did they try to attract the unsaved with fishing tournaments, theater productions, carnivals, or chariot shows? We do not know, though, how to reach the unsaved through the word and Spirit of God and with messages of repentance, and so we are content to have sporting events which we call ministry and outreach–and no one had better question it or he will be condemned as being negative and in opposition to God’s work.
Church prayer meetings are replaced with cool, fun small groups, and the churches are no longer united. Even when we do pray, we are so unfamiliar with God that we merely read prayer lists back to God (often taking His name in vain–Oh God, heavenly Father, we ask Lord, that you, Lord, bless us, Lord, and Lord God, we know, Father, that you, O Lord, are a great God, Lord . . . ). We can barely talk to another Christian about God’s word for more than a few minutes, and to try to get a few people to pray together for an hour is nearly impossible.
If we begin with the Bible rather than how we do things today, would we have youth pastors? How many can we find in the Bible? It used to be that the youth were influenced by the Godly adults, learned to pray and seek God together, were taught to mature and live for Him in the middle of an ungodly world, but now the youth are separated from eveyone else, are uncomfortable praying with adults, no longer learn the great hymns of the faith, but certainly have fun at the amusement parks and Christian concerts! They might not be able to lead their classmates to Jesus or have time to explain to them about God and His word, but they can invite them to the youth group for fun times!
Young Christian married couples no longer are influenced by the older, mature Godly couples who have been through tough times and learned to depend upon God. Now they, too, must have their own classes and groups where they are separate from the rest of the church, and they, too, no longer have to sing those hymns that meant so much to the church for hundreds of years. They do not learn the importance of daily time with God, for they are taught that God understands if their lives are busy–that they have to go to work, take their kids to sports’ leagues and other activities, watch the latest television shows so that they can relate to their friends and co-workers, and replace a relationship with God with date night or a Christian comedian at church every one in a while who talks about marriage a couple times. They no longer learn how to visit the sick and afflicted, to sacrifice for God and others, to help the elderly, but are segregated unto themselves and seek entertaiinment for themselves. The husbands might not spend daily time with God themselves, and certainly do not have time to lead the family in devotions, but they can make it to the marriage retreat once a year, so it is fine, they think.
When we begin with our culture instead of the Sciptures, we no longer think about things like the Hebrews 11 hall of heroes and certainly are not familiar with Moody, Chrysostom, Brainerd, Bunyan, Carmichael, Spurgeon, Taylor, Knox, Wycliffe, etc., but we can make it to a few professional sports events a year to honor our true heroes. We might not have time to learn about separation from the world and about holiness, but we can be moved by the latest fiction movie, as long as we train ourselves to ignore the profanity, immorality, and blasphemy contained in it.
Sure–there are still places where Christians seek God, where the youth do not imitate the world, where the elderly are honored and respected, and where people sing for God’s glory rather than their own entertainment, but these places are increasingly rare. Let us then, begin with the book–the Bible, and work our way out. How should we spend our time? What does the Bible say? How should we be entertained? What does God say? Should we be playing church sports on the Lord’s Day? What does God say? You get the idea. We each have our faults and areas in which we can improve, but let us begin with the Scriptures and spur one another on to love and good works and holiness, rather than excuse and justify our way on to finding our satisfaction in sports and entertainment. Why not pray and sing hymns and read good Christian books and biographies together as couples and families, rather than imitate the pleasures that the world seeks?
Begin with the Book, continue with the Book, and end with the Book.