Nevertheless, since it is the biblical position, we are not surprised to find Paul informing us that “the church of the living God [is] the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15b). Whatever else the church of God does, it must excel at undergirding and proclaiming the truth. I believe a local church can fail at many things, but it must not fail at holding forth the truth of the living God. To fail at this is to fail at the primary mission given to the church. The church is not free to create truth, to supplement truth, to alter truth, or to selectively obey truth. The church is “to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). The church is to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The church is to “preach the word; be ready, in season, and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). To not accept these commands as a sacred trust is to totally miss the most important reason for the church’s existence.
…At certain points in history the church has served as a rebuke to the secular mindset of society. At such times Christians have challenged and exposed the popular fads that ruled the day, revealing those fads for what they were, shallow and empty, mere “broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Sadly, now is not one of those points in history. Rather, the Christian community at the present time appears to be in lock step with the world system. Whatever the world is selling Christians seem to be buying. They may perfume it a bit, hang some religious ornaments on it, and throw some scriptures into the mix, but when stripped to its essence evangelicals frequently find themselves mimicking the world’s philosophy.
We find this true with regard to postmodernity. Rather than repel the forces leading this ungodly worldview, we have welcomed them into our camp, adapted their most appetizing features and structured our ministries according to their market research. What polls and surveys have to say seem to carry considerably more weight in today’s local church than what the apostle Paul had to say.
Culture has always influenced the church, but in a real sense the postmodern culture has engulfed the church—and in many cases defined the church. We see its fingerprints everywhere we turn.
…What is happening? Having discovered postmodernists’ disdain for truth, the postmodern church has determined that the lost will never be reached through the offer of authoritative truth. To claim to be in possession of absolutes is viewed suspiciously today, since it is a thinly disguised power grab, so we are better off not playing the “truth” card too openly. In order to reach the citizens of this age we must give them what they want. And what do they want? They want to have their felt-needs met and they want to have a religious experience. If we desire to attract people to Christ these days, we are told, we need to understand their mindset. The old gospel of redemption from sin, righteousness in Christ and a future in heaven with our Lord just doesn’t play well any more.
I have documented this mentality toward evangelism from primary sources in my book This Little Church Went to Market, so I will not repeat those things here. But read some of the observations by respected Christian leaders who see what has happened. D. A. Carson writes,
Weigh how many presentations of the gospel have been “eased” by portraying Jesus as the One who fixes marriages, ensures the American dream, cancels loneliness, gives us power, and generally makes us happy. He is portrayed that way primarily because in our efforts to make Jesus appear relevant we have cast the human dilemma in merely contemporary categories, taking our cues from the perceived needs of the day. But if we follow Scripture, and understand that the fundamental needs of the race are irrefragably tied to the Fall, we will follow the Bible as it sets out God’s gracious solution to that fundamental need; and then the gospel we preach will be less skewed by the contemporary agenda … If you begin with perceived needs, you will always distort the gospel. If you begin with the Bible’s definition of our need, relating perceived needs to that central grim reality, you are more likely to retain intact the gospel of God (emphasis in the original).
Douglas Groothuis laments, “Some Christians are hailing postmodernism as the trend that will make the church interesting and exciting to postmoderns. We are told that Christians must shift their emphasis from objective truth to communal experience, from rational argument to subjective appeal, from doctrinal orthodoxy to ‘relevant’ practices. I have reasoned throughout this book that this move is nothing less than fatal to Christian integrity and biblical witness. It is also illogical philosophically. We have something far better to offer.”‘*