by Rev. Arnold Reimer
A struggle for the very soul of the Christian and Missionary Alliance has been unleashed. Recent events, such as the new interpretation of Scripture relative to the role of women in places of leadership, are the present focal point. But the problem is bigger and deeper than that. It is more than hermeneutics. It is more than numbers and style of worship. It is rooted in the very soul of the denomination. Over the last twenty five to thirty years the church I knew and loved has changed. The resulting loss is disturbing, not to say heart-breaking.
Past things rooted deep in my memory make me dissatisfied with much of what I now experience and observe. For example, the Pastor-Evangelist persuading the mind, defining sin in principle and practise, working the conscience to an understanding of the awfulness of sin and the fearfulness of certain judgment, is gone. So is the altar call providing a place and time for repentance and profession of faith. The Spirit of God was expected to make conviction real and response necessary. The goal was more than salvation, it was holiness of character and behaviour.
The Bible, its teaching and examples, was once central. Its authority ruled and its truths were proclaimed with a sure conviction. An unquestioned loyalty to it was expected and protected. Doubts as to its veracity were taken seriously and corrected. The humility required to hear and obey God was emphasized. His Word was preached with confidence because it would not return void. If it contradicted the ways of the world or popular opinion, well, that was to be expected. It was not necessary for the world to understand or to agree with us. Christians were suppose to be different. Excessive public acceptance was questionable, making the saints uncomfortable.
The fullness of the Holy Spirit was declared crucial to spiritual success. Once every year or two a “deeper life preacher” would call us to a renewed commitment to the Lordship of Christ, to holy behaviour, to a fresh recognition of the human tendency to backslide. The correctives were presented clearly and forcefully – a spiritual re-evaluation and a thorough repentance for the sins of commission and omission. Death to self was explained and illustrated. Submission to the Holy Spirit and His fullness was taught with passion. The serious believer understood that true Christian living was only possible when Christ reigned unhindered by the works of the flesh. Self centered-ness in all its forms was denounced and had to be laid at the foot of the cross. Only then would the beauty of Jesus truly shine forth.
Sacrifice was expected. Treasures in heaven were more important than riches on earth. The epitome of sacrifice was missionary involvement. A high moment in the church calendar was the annual missionary convention. Old and young were passionately reminded of the lost, the nature of lost-ness and the power of God transforming sinners into saints whatever their location, culture or religion. Over and over again people stood making themselves available to God and to His church for service here or abroad. It was the recruiting post for Bible College and full time ministry. Those who responded and followed through were the heroes of the church and the darlings of the prayer warriors. These things encouraged giving with unusual faithfulness and often genuine sacrifice.
Unfortunately, much of this has changed. Prayer, preaching, giving, singing and living is far too self-serving. Rather than challenging the world in which we live, we are trying to be accommodating. The salt has lost its saltiness. It is increasingly difficult to discern between the life-style of the saint and the world-ling. Political correctness has nuanced the biblical truths about depravity, sin, lost-ness, the blood, judgment, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, divorce, repentance, drunkenness, and pride. The essential work of Jesus is losing its uniqueness among us as multi-cultural-ism dominates. We have failed to define adequately what it means to be “in the world but not of it.” Holiness is down-graded lest we appear to be too different from our peers.
Let us read with brokenness II Timothy 3:1-7 (NKJ): “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themself, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
The blessed, comforting but challenging truth is that our God has not changed. May our prayer be: “Restore us, O God of our salvation, and cause your anger toward us to cease. Will You be angry with us forever? Will You prolong Your anger to all generations? Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, O Lord, and grant us Your salvation. I will hear what God the Lord will speak; for He will speak peace to His people and to His saints; but let them not turn back to folly.” (Psalm 85:4-8 NKJ)
(Arnold Reimer, August 2012)