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Has the Church Really Changed?

Someone tells of a small town in Nebraska where so little ever changes that the local radio station is still playing last year's weather forecast! "Change" has become one of America's most often spoken words, and our culture has changed greatly over the past four or five decades. You don't need anyone to explain how much it has changed if you are at least 40 years old. From technology to medicine to views on morals and marriage — things have changed dramatically. Some changes, of course, have been very good and some very bad. The church has changed, too, and change in the church is not necessarily a bad thing. Revelation chapters 2 and 3 record Jesus' letters to the seven churches of Asia. Those letters call for change in the church. But not the kind of change some want to see. There is not a word in those letters that called the church to compromise the message or change the doctrine God revealed through the apostles. On the contrary, in those areas where there had been compromise with the doctrinal or moral teaching of the gospel, they were sternly told by the Lord to *repent" (Revelation 2:5, 16, 21, 22; 3:3, 19). The word "repent" is vital in our relationship with the Lord. Study it carefully and you will know that when the Lord tells anyone to repent, dramatic change is in order if we are to comply with the Lord's will and thus enjoy His favor. But change the gospel message or plan of salvation or the organization of the church or the nature and spirit and form or New Testament worship? The Bible warns repeatedly against that kind of change in the strongest language possible (Galatians 1;6-9; Revelation 22:18-19; etc.)

But wait. On deeper reflection, Christians realize that in reality very little has changed so far as the church is concerned, and that it never does. We read in the Bible, That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9b). At heart the great moral, spiritual battles the church faces never changes! As Paul Harvey said, "In times like these, it helps to remember that there have always been times like these." Probably fifteen years ago a member of the church gave me a copy of the "David Lipscomb College Bulletin" dated February, 1950. The entire bulletin was comprised of a lengthy article by the then president of the college, Athens Clay Pullias. The article was entitled "Dangers Confronting the Church." As Brother Pullias saw it then they were:

    * A Decreasing Emphasis on "Thus Saith the Lord" (increasing dependence on human logic and less on Biblical authority)
    * An Increasing Spirit of Materialism and Secularism
    * An Increasing Ecclesiasticism (organizations outside the local church presuming to perform and regulate its work)
    *Substitution of Plans, Programs, and Promotional Machinery for the Teaching of God's Word
    *The Development of the Party Spirit — An Ancient Evil (around schools, papers, preachers, etc)
    *An Unequal Emphasis on New Testament Truth
    * An Increasing Number of Half-converted and Untaught Members of the Church
    * A Failure to Plead for Unity in Christ on the Word of God
    *A failure to Be Christlike in Daily Life — A failure to "Put on Christ" (failure on our part to do, and be, what we claim to be). In closing allow me to ask: Has the church really changed at all?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ