Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

Conformity. . . In The Church?!

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 27 September 2008

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. "
- Romans 12:2
As soon as you throw out the word 'worldly' you've got as many definitions for it as hearers of it. It's important to know precisely what "worldliness" is.

As a girl, I was taught that worldliness included such things as smoking, drinking, dancing, and playing cards. I never did these things -- was never tempted to do these things -- and I felt good about myself was self-righteous. As I got older and my circle of friends grew bigger, I recognized (in my own thinking) that worldliness also included swearing, going to "raunchy" movies, gossiping, and wearing clothing that were "fashionable" but not necessarily modest.

Fast forward a few decades: Today, my list is full up and sated with far more descriptive behaviors.

But this is not what Romans 12:2 is about. To think of worldliness in only these terms is to trivialize what is a far more serious -- and far more subtle -- problem.

The word "world," in Romans 12:2 is actually "age" (aion, meaning, "this present age" in contrast to "the age to come"); and "do not conform," is a compound word having at its root in the word "scheme."

A re-write of the verse might go something like this:

"Do not let the post-modern culture in which you now live force you into its scheme of thinking and behaving."

In the context of Romans Chapter 2, the Apostle Paul is telling Christians that they need to be changed from within to be increasingly like Jesus. And is doing this, the world's ideas will be of no interest because Christians will be able to test and approve what God's will is.

The chief problem in the evangelical church today is that we have been increasingly conformed to the world's patterns. You name it: music, evangelism, preaching, bible-study, small-groups. . . Everything has to be "appealing" and perceived as exciting and new and refreshing!

In my early thirties, I begin to believe that being a part of "church" wasn't so much about being a new person that had been reborn of the Holy Spirit, but that it had more to do with being in "unity" with others. Or better yet: "Community!"

Unity had been (and still is!) mistaken for Truth. (i.e. what God's Word actually says and instructs us to be doing as true believers.) "Unity" had become synonymous with "Truth." And I believed the lie. (And this was early in the new-evangelical movement.)

For many years, I was uncomfortable with this thinking. I couldn't really pin down precisely why, I just wasn't comfortable in my church. And even more than that: I just wasn't comfortable before Jesus when I was alone -- away from the "Community."

It took many years (of studying God's Word) for me to pin down my awkwardness before Him and understand the Truth. God's Word doesn't really have that much to say about "unity" and "community" in the sense that the evangelical church identifies it today. It has everything to say about how a true believer acts and thinks and shares and interacts with the world.

The post-modern culture had forced me into its scheme of thinking and behaving.

I believed the lies:

I believed that simply fellowshipping with other Christians made me a church-member-in-good-standing.

I believed that plain old Bible-Study was boring and irrelevant to my life. I believed that studying and discussing books written by Christian authors was far more applicable to my life.

I believed that bringing Christian Contemporary Music into the church was relevant because it would draw people who might not otherwise come to church. I believed that playing the old Hymns was a turn-off to non-Christians and they wouldn't come to church if we played them.

I believed that making allowances for people who differed slightly in the way of "Salvation" was okay since they were probably on their way to true salvation by just being part of "Community."

And each of these are ways that the church has tried to be relevant to the culture.

Some churches try really hard to find ways. Some churches have committees just to discuss new ideas.

But each new idea is simply another way that the church has been forced into the world's scheme of thinking and behaving. They are all ways that the Truth of God's Word has been sacrificed in order to get more people to attend church.

Is this the reason we have churches? . . .To get as many people through the doors as we can?

By doing this, the church has created a continuity with the world instead of a separateness from the world. Being separate from the world is commanded in God's Word!

The church - as a body - has become "conformed!"

On a global scale, our post-modern world holds "unity" and "community" as the ultimate goal for world peace. If you understand even a small piece of eschatology, you know there is no "world peace."

But it is this "world peace" mindset that encourages socialism, big-government, multiculturalism , relativism, tolerance, etc. in our culture. These schemes are being pushed on us. Sometimes by the church itself!

Even "Christian" agendas (such as The Purpose Driven Church, P.E.A.C.E , 40 Days of Community, multicultural outreach, etc., etc., etc,.) that define "unity" in the sense of a spirituality that transcends all faiths and cultures are manufactured to usher in a new global community where peace will be achieved by consensus and synthesis. (Wrong!)

I am not a pessimist. Really!

My passion - my calling - my purpose - is that Christians be grounded in God's Word. . . . To understand that God's heart is not necessarily what today's churches are dispensing.

I believed the lie myself for many many years!

The saddest part of telling "my story" is that so many professing Christians just don't "get it." They get angry and indignant when this is shown or told to them.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. "
- Romans 12:2

- Esthermay Bentley-Goossen
© Copyright 2008 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife


HisFireFly said...

Great post! Thank you for your boldness to speak, which I know must come from the Holy Spirit.

Barbara said...

You said it, girlfriend! I read this out loud to my husband and he wants to know why you aren't a preacher!? Dare I say this is the problem with most "troublemakers" in the church today. They get angry when confronted with Truth.
Great post.

john burreson said...

Another great post. Full of truth and conviction Great work. But why do you close comments on your Election thoughts? Don't answer that.

Kathy S. said...

Amen Amen Amen!! I am glad I hopped over here. I am glad the Light is shining in your heart and mind. Praise God you measure everything by His word!

I have found that love of truth compells us to state it/or defend it/or contend for it (Him), and the comment "truth hurts" is really true. And when the truth hurts someone, they want to hurt back...so we get to take up our cross. Daily.

I am just glad we are never alone!

God bless you!

betsy j. said...

It’s always clear who the angry and indignant ones are; they either switch churches or create problems. (And why are they always women?)But wait. I talk to someone who knows! We know too. We pray that the ones who’ve left Crane and the ones that still don’t get it will receive a fresh vision of God’s Word and come to full salvation in him. God Bless your ministry. I know He has!

Rachel said...

Wow, you continue to blow my mind with your posts! They bless my life so much!

I especially liked your point about discussing Christian authored books. I had a serious stronghold with this in my life and had to go through a period of about 4 years where I wouldn't let myself read anything but the word of God because I could no longer distinguish what was truth and someone's interpretation of truth.

We talked about this in my Hebrews class the other night, about how so many churches try to make the cross appealing and comforting, when it is designed to do the exact opposite! It is designed to confront men and women with their sins and remind them of the chasm between them and God. Of course the grace is there also, but we cannot access the grace without first admitting the chasm.

Great post! I look forward to more!

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