Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Staying Faithful

This post by Carl Trueman, though written from a Presbyterian perspective, gives good food for thought on how we can fight for long-term faithfulness as a church. The term "fight" is appropriate, for faithfulness doesn't just happen. Without constant diligence and vigorous efforts after holiness, truth, and love, we will surely decay. "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Tim 4:16).

Here are Dr. Trueman's suggestions for staying faithful.
1. Guard your personal integrity and be honest about where you stand in relation to your vows.
2. Understand that sound preaching and earnest prayer are not enough to stop a denomination losing the plot or to turn it around once the rot has set in.
3. Watch changes to the terms of confessional subscription very carefully.
4. Do not be intimidated by the `we are just doing it for evangelism' argument.
5. If you are called to be a leader, then be a leader, not a statesman.

Read the entire post here.

 Point #2 sparked some thoughts for me. It was recently suggested to me that if a church is committed to expository preaching, then the church is on the right track, even if there are other problematic areas. I'm not convinced that this is the case.

First, I should make clear that a commitment to expository preaching is a blessed commitment. Such a commitment is necessary to the enduring faithfulness of any church.

However, such a commitment is not sufficient for the enduring faithfulness of a church. As Trueman points out, heterodoxy dresses up in many guises. Often, what is actually practiced in a church and in the lives of its people has a much more determinative impact on the direction of a church than what is preached from the pulpit. Furthermore, what a church loves shapes and directs whatever doctrinal commitments that church may hold. A church may formally hold to an impeccable doctrinal statement and philosophy of ministry, but if the people of the church, and especially the leaders of the church, have their affections shaped by alien influences, they will cease to understand the spirit of their own commitments. When they no longer understand these commitments, it is but a short step to revise, replace, or reject them. Many times this happens in practice long before it happens on paper.

Enduring faithfulness requires orthodoxy, to be sure, but it also requires orthopraxy (right practices) and orthopathy (right loves). Faith and love flow out into obedience - an obedience that is willing to fight the good fight of faith. Without this willingness to drop the pietistic pretense and fight for what is right, we will not stay faithful.

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