Ed Stetzer recently wrote an article regarding the decline of the United Methodists. This decline is not unique to that denomination, other “main-line” denominations share this experience.
These denominations have been in the news for abandonment of standards that held sway in Christendom for 2000 years. For example, The Presbyterian Church USA recently enacted rules that will open up ordination to homosexuals. As bad as this is, I would argue that this failure is a symptom of a larger problem.
The larger problem is the abandonment of Scripture as the authority upon which the Church should build its belief and practice. With the rejection of the inspiration of the original manuscripts, the church has lost her moral foundation. With the claim that Scripture is man-made comes the notion that Scriptural commands and principles can be set aside at will. This is done to the detriment of the church.
The pastors and leaders in these denominations, and those who have trained them, must bear a majority of the responsibility for the decline. By rejecting Scripture, they have also rejected Jesus Christ, no matter that they still use his name. Those who reject Scripture are irresponsible shepherds who are not providing proper spiritual care to their flocks.
Yes, I am aware of the attempts to explain that the Bible doesn’t condemn homosexuality. In their attempts, these shepherds perform exegetical gymnastics to stretch words into meanings that the writers and original readers never would have understood. This ploy has been in play since the beginning and is a variation on the theme of “did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1-7)
I recently read these words in Jeremiah 12:10:
Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard;
they have trampled down my portion;
they have made my pleasant portion
a desolate wilderness. (ESV)
God, through Jeremiah, condemned the shepherds of Israel that led that nation into rebellion against God. As the verse above states, that rebellion turned the Nation of Israel into a desolate wilderness. Rebellion against God and his commands and principles always carries negative consequences. Just as when one is on the top of a sky-scraper, one ignores gravity to his peril.
Later on in Jeremiah 23:2, he writes;
2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord.
As in ancient Israel, the shepherds today will be held accountable for what they feed their sheep. James 3:1 tells us that teachers will be held to a higher standard. God has given the gifts that enable the shepherds to lead and he expects that those gifts be used wisely and for good purpose.
The point of this is not to bash the main-line denominations, but to encourage those who are committed to the study, teaching and application of Scripture to stay the course. To care for the flocks that God has brought into your congregations requires that the flocks be fed good spiritual nutrition which can only be found in Scripture. Anything else is junk food at best and poison at worst.
If there is any temptation to stray from accurately teaching Scripture, I’d like to remind you of the words of Peter when asked if he was going to leave Jesus. When Jesus asked Peter if he would leave him, Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68)
The Apostle Paul instructs us to “hold fast to the word of life” in Philippians 2:16.To do so will reverse the decline.
Remember that the drowning man needs a life preserver, not more water.