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
American Christians, particularly those who claim to be “Christian” on the basis of a compromised “it’s all about you” Gospel, violate the very thrust of Paul’s command. American Christians are “conformed to this world.” Adopting a stance of niceness and inoffensiveness, the church has, to a great degree, allowed the world to infiltrate its pulpits, pews, and ecclesiastic protocol.
The visible church has become the world. When “worship” services more closely resemble the smoke-hazed environs of a night club rock concert; when the “messages” proclaimed by pastors are more closely based on the teaching of Americanized pop-psychology proclaiming how God wants you to be a winner; when becoming a Christian means membership in a morally-inclined club comprised of doctrine-less “converts” made so by the repetition of a magic prayer; when these conditions, and so many more, are the norm, rather than the exception, in the American “church”, then, yes, as a church, we have become “conformed to the world.”
We hear the talking heads, both in and out of the church, bemoan the cultural condition of post-modernism, and it’s necessary tragic result, political correctness. In the culture of America today, where any grasp of absolute truth is tolerated for the individual, a foundation of absolute truth that defines our society’s ethics is disallowed.
We cannot tell someone their behavior is wrong, that it violates our foundation of ethics because we’ve allowed the erosion of that foundation. We have no ethical foundation from which moral judgments may be made. The desired behavior of a single individual, or a small group of individuals, regardless of how morally aberrant, socially harmful, or evidently selfish those desires may be, cannot be allowed to draw the collective outrage of society. If it’s right for you, who am I, who are we, to say it’s wrong?
It is this “behavior dictates ethics” that conforms the church to the world, coupled with a Christ-denying casual gospel, if and when even that is proclaimed. In the Southern Baptist Convention alone, the results of this conformity are clear. We build, “plant”, more and more churches year after year, and, year after year, we see a continued exodus of members leaving the ranks. In just the last year, we saw the woeful reduction of our global missionary force necessitated by the continual downgrade in our churches.
As though completely blinded to this reality, our leaders yet plead with congregants to pray for a “Great Awakening” in America when what we most desperately need is a reformation within our own ranks. We need a reformation the re-ignites our focus on the centrality of the infallible Word in our faith, in our pulpits, throughout our pews. And that focus must be accompanied by authentic repentance and a zealous commitment to obey that Word.
Instead, those in the church, and those in leadership, pay mere lip service to the authority of Scripture. We know that it is lip service when we see SBC leadership willingly and intentionally align with false teachers, with an apostate Roman Catholic Church, and with morally-inclined elements within society to achieve admittedly noble goals. In so doing, we sacrifice our historic, unique stance on the Gospel, and thereby, reveal the pragmatic position that we don’t really believe in the authority of Scripture.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5
Southern Baptists have an agency, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, that is – this might surprise you – NOT charged to represent the collective voice of our denomination in the political, social, and cultural arena. Based on the seemingly ubiquitous presence of its president, Russell Moore, on major networks, in major news media, and throughout social media, Southern Baptists might presume Moore is doing exactly as he is tasked to do. However, the mission statement of the ERLC says nothing about this aggressive engagement IN THE CULTURE:
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission exists to assist the churches by helping them understand the moral demands of the gospel, apply Christian principles to moral and social problems and questions of public policy, and to promote religious liberty in cooperation with the churches and other Southern Baptist entities.
Read that mission statement carefully. The primary task of the ERLC is not to engage culture, but to “assist churches.” This assistance is to be based on the fundamental ethic that we, as Bible-believing Christians, avow – the Gospel. The ERLC is to help teach churches “the moral demands of the gospel” and how to apply those Gospel principles as we, collectively, live “in the world, not of it.” Finally, the commission is charged to “promote religious liberty” in cooperation with the Convention’s member churches and other affiliated agencies.
When is the last time a representative of the ERLC has spoken in your church? When is the last time a regional conference on the “moral demands of the gospel” was sponsored by the ERLC for churches in your association? (For $94, you can buy a ticket to attend the upcoming, ERLC national conference “Onward”. Hmm, didn’t Moore write a book by the same title? It’s unclear if your ticket cost includes a free copy of his tome, or whether you may purchase one at a discount at the conference book store.) When was the last time you, as a pastor or as a layman, received a genuine response for a genuine question asked of the president of the ERLC? (I personally know a couple of current SBC pastors who have sought a response from Moore on pressing issues who have been unanswered, disregarded, and even “blocked” on social media so their voices might not be heard. I presume if Vatican City calls, the phone is answered.)
Superficially, the actual activity of the ERLC, which seems to have become singularly identified as Russell Moore, seems less involved in widespread, direct actions with SBC churches and more prevalent on Fox News, The New York Times, CNN, or any number of other high profile media outlets. The average SBC congregant is very likely to see Moore lauding the Pope, or actively engaging with an apostate Roman Church (they have a different gospel, a Jesus insufficient for your salvation, and doctrine that anathematizes that firm Baptist belief “justification by faith alone”.)
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. Ephesians 5:11
Since the ERLC is not primarily charged to engage the culture, but rather to teach the churches (not the Roman church, either), Moore will be coming face to face with a critical issue. It’s quite one thing to link arms with Cardinal Dolan in a pro-life March For Life. Arguably, that behavior is not ordained by the mission statement of the ERLC. It’s quite another thing should Moore refuse to address a first order issue within our own Convention.
What is ordained is for Moore to make a pointed, direct, Gospel stand on that “log” in our own eye. When a Southern Baptist pastor defends a Southern Baptist deacon for allowing his business to be a key contractor in the construction of an abortion clinic, it not only gives overwhelming evidence of their disregard for the gospel, it creates a circumstance in which, by default, the SBC itself is engaged with “unfruitful works of darkness.” Read about this atrocity HERE and HERE and HERE.
A petition is underway (Sign it HERE) that urges Russell Moore, and current SBC President, Ronnie Floyd, to make a decided stand in speaking out against the horror that is within our own ranks. Will Moore and Floyd do as they so often do and take to the public spotlight a confession of our own sin, a calling out of this “work of darkness”, and proclaim that repentance, correction, and obedience is required?
As part of its expanded “Ministry Statement”, the very first tasked endeavor of the ERLC is to “assist churches in applying the moral and ethical teachings of the Bible to the Christian life.”
While it’s egregious enough that Moore will hand hold with the apostate Roman church to stand against abortion, how much more egregious is it that abortion is being facilitated within our own ranks?
Moore’s leadership position requires him to do as point one of the ERLC’s ministry statement requires: call out that church and that pastor and that deacon for woefully, publicly aligning the SBC in the construction of an abortuary. If Moore will march for life with the Roman Catholic Church, he must stand for life within our own ranks.
The circumstance of this sad development within a Southern Baptist Church is evidence of the very fundamental problem that is rampant throughout the denomination. We have been conformed to the world. We proclaim the authority of Scripture, but deny its place by our pragmatism. We boldly stand and shout Jesus as Lord, but dare not call sin, sin.
For a Southern Baptist pastor to condone the work of his deacon in this “sickness unto death” is evidence of a culture of “Christian” correctness and Scriptural defiance.
It’s prudent for us to be reminded of chapter five from Paul’s letter to Corinth. That church was tolerating in its midst the presence of an immoral, incestuous member. The Apostle, it is safe to say, was thoroughly apoplectic over such sinful tolerance within the body of Christ. His remarks, and his instruction, to the church of Corinth is a demand made equally upon us today:
For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you. 1 Corinthians 5:12-13
The ERLC, that is, Russell Moore, may stand before the television cameras and judge the evil of abortion in America. He may presume to utter what will remain unheeded warnings to the decidedly godless culture on this horrific practice. He may seek to align with anyone and everyone, regardless of their own Gospel allegiance, who will join with him in the stand.
But, if he is to remain true, not merely to the mission statement of his own agency, but more importantly to the commands of Scripture, Russell Moore must firmly speak out against this atrocity within our own ranks. His failure to do so will give evidence that the ERLC is merely a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
Indeed, he must, and we must stand firmly, lovingly, beseeching repentance and obedience, as we “Purge the evil person from among (us).”
Scripture is the authority. Let’s give it more than lip service, for the sake of our witness to it. Our failure to do so will serve only as confirmation of our further falling away, and our disregard for Scripture. Where will we stand?
[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]