“Few people walk away from the faith suddenly. Usually it is an incremental series of compromises that eventually tear down the absolute authority of Scripture.”1
A Christian does not go to bed one night in fidelity to the Scriptures and wake up in the morning a full-blown compromiser. If compromise is going to happen, it will happen over time. The first step of compromise is the hardest. Who hasn’t faced the choice to remain true to biblical principles or to take the easy road of compromise? The Spirit of God pricks our consciences when we face those choices. You know the voice; Scripture comes to mind, and if we listen, it protects us from making wrong choices. If we have taken that first step of compromise, subsequent steps become easier to take. The term “slippery slope” is a very good way to describe the road to compromise and modernism. Set one foot on the slope of compromise, and you’ll find the rest of the downhill slide quick and easy.
You’ve heard the expression—“One foot over the grave and the other on a banana peel.” In a small way, that statement illustrates the threat of the Church Growth, Seeker, and Emergent Church movements we find ourselves confronted with today. Those ministries are the “grave” in that they are led by men who run roughshod over the Word of God. The “banana peel” is listening to them. There is a strange allurement and attraction with cults and compromising ministries. Today, you may hold the high ground with both feet fixed on the absolute authority of the Bible. However, once you decide to keep an open mind about the philosophy and practices of organizations like Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek and Rick Warren’s (Purpose Driven) Saddleback churches and the movements they represent, you will have hung one foot over an open grave and placed the other on the banana peel.
The Law of Gravity: It is easier to get pulled down into compromise than it is to pull the compromiser up to the high ground you occupy. If only out of curiosity you begin to interact with compromisers, to read them, and to begin a dialogue with them, you may be on your way to becoming one of them. You might like to learn who and what these movements are, if only to understand and refute them. Your motive may be good—you intend to hold your own ground—but that is not usually the way it works. Stand a 200-pound man on a chair and a 125-pound eighth grader on the ground. Let them clasp hands and see who wins the tug-of-war. You might think you have enough spiritual muscle to resist the force of gravity, which is the magnetic attraction of the Church Growth and Emergent movements, but we have seen enough examples of those who succumbed to the appeal to realize that anyone can be pulled down the road of compromise. If you show an interest in compromise, the compromisers will become interested in you.
How does one start down the road of compromise? For most, it probably starts with some disappointment or disillusionment. For others, it may be the attraction of what appears to be a successful, exciting, and vibrant ministry or organization.
In any working environment, even Christian ministries, there is the possibility that someone you trust and appreciate might one day let you down. I spent eight years on two different Bible college faculties. I loved my students, prayed for them, and poured my heart and soul into them. It would be naïve of me to think that I never rubbed one of my students the wrong way and offended him or her. Careless words and an insensitive heart are some ways I may have disappointed or discouraged a young person. If you’re out there, and I offended you, I want to make it right. Any Christian in a position of leadership, who truly cares for those in his care, should want to right any offense. There is no such thing as the perfect job or ministry because there are no perfect people. Because you interact with imperfect people, you will run into disappointment. There is never too much water that has run under the bridge to restore fellowship and to rekindle your joy in the Lord.
I have spent many years in both full-time ministry and the secular workplace. It does not take long to learn that you are going to meet with discouragement in either sphere. I have been gainfully employed on Monday and unemployed on Tuesday. Twice in the last 25 years, I have known what it is like to wonder where the next paycheck is coming from. My wife and I have been in the grocery store with a short list, hoping we would not have to leave anything behind once we discovered our total at the checkout. I have looked at my wife and children and reminded God that they need to see Him work on their behalf and provide for them through me. Then reassuring truths like the following come to mind:
“I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread,” (Ps. 37:25).There will be times of fear, concern, and worry; but they are also times of rich blessing from God. The trials that come in life are not easy to go through. Who hasn’t questioned God at one time or another when trials and difficulties have come? God is in the trials; He is teaching you things to build you into what He wants you to become for Him and His glory. The Lord is with you in the trials. He has blessings on the other side waiting for you; you would miss them if you decided to cut and run from the lesson God has for you. Lest anyone think I am some kind of spiritual giant who is impervious to worry and fear, let me tell you this: More than once, I have been afraid, I have worried, I have questioned God. But there is one thing I did not do: I did not quit!
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,” (Matthew 6:31-33).
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the bills are high,
When you want to smile, but have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow,
You may succeed with another blow.
Success is failure turned inside out.
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell just how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
Don’t let those inevitable trials and disappointments that come in life and ministry turn your head. Don’t get caught up in the thrill and excitement of the Church Growth & emergent movements you see reported in various media. Big things don’t necessarily mean good things. Don’t measure success or blessing the way man does. Who wouldn’t want to have—or be part—a large following? If all of us were honest, we would admit that we would get more excited about preaching to (or being part of) a crowd of 10,000 than to a crowd of 10. That is the flesh speaking to us, and if you are like me, it can sound pretty good. We all need to remind ourselves that with God, whether it be 10 or 10,000, it’s all the same to Him.
I have had the privilege of preaching at state-of-the-art venues where more than 3,000 were in the service. I have also had the privilege to preach in a 10-foot by 12-foot room under a sheet-metal roof with only a candle to light my Bible so three souls (through an interpreter) could hear the “wonderful words of life.” There I was, standing on a cold concrete floor, preaching from a Bible so poorly lit I could hardly make out the words. I don’t remember the text from which I preached or even what I said that night, but I still remember thinking to myself, The preachers back in America don’t get to do this.
“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example,” (Phil. 3:17).Preacher boys and Christian young men and women: Why don’t you decide to become the type of Christian who might be the example for other Christians to follow? I am not talking about turning into a high-minded, puffed-up, pharisaical snob. Set out to become a man or woman who, above all things, wants to please God with his or her life. While you are growing and maturing into that kind of example, look for and mark those among you who set an example you can follow and pass that example on to those who will one day follow you.
Young people, you’ve got it all ahead of you. Don’t listen to the voices and movements of compromise. Keep close to the Lord Jesus Christ! He is the living Word of God! When men compromise the Word of God, they compromise their allegiance to Jesus Christ, whom they claim as Lord and Savior. Don’t listen to men who have already caved in and made the compromise.
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus,” (2 Tim. 1:13, emphasis added).In personal life, professions, or ministry, any one of us might prefer the easy road rather than to face trial, struggles, and frustration. Many of us can look at our lives and find times when compromise might have been convenient and even a possibility we considered. Hold fast! Don’t do it! Stand firm! Don’t quit!
“Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers,” (Titus 1:9, emphasis added).
“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession,” (Heb. 4:14, emphasis added).
In seasons of life, there will be times when the wind will howl and the waves will crash. In those tempests, you will hear the calls to give in, to take an easier road. Oh, but listen for a familiar voice! You have heard His voice before. “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39). The winds will cease, the seas will calm, the clouds will part; and there will be sunshine again. Walk with Him, talk to Him, and trust in Him. “Hold fast” to the doctrine and to your profession of the One who gave Himself for you.
Young people, there are godly men and women in Bible believing churches and Bible colleges and interacting with you at some blog sites who love you and want to see you go on to experience the best God has for you. If you take that first step of compromise today, you will wake up tomorrow morning ready to take the next step. With each successive step, your “first love” (Rev. 2:4) will eventually become a hazy memory, wiped away by a gradual slide into the shallow, murky waters of the modern church growth and marketing culture.
Keep those movements and their advocates at arms’ length. Do not listen to them. Do not read them. If you want to understand what these movements stand for, consult someone who can counsel you from the Word of God. From a balanced biblical perspective, you can be shown just how far the Church Growth and Emergent movements have drifted from the moorings of Scripture.
The work of God that will count for eternity has been done and will be done by Christian men and women who did not quit, who did not compromise, and who did not retreat when the testing came.
Originally published at Sharper Iron, (May 23, 2007). Reproduced by permission.
1) Dr. Mike Harding, a thread comment from Sharper Iron under, Are You REALLY a Fundamentalist?
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SITE PUBLISHER ADDENDUNM:
From D.A. Carson’s For the Love of God, volume 2, Jan. 23 entry:
“One of the most striking evidences of sinful human nature lies in the universal propensity for downward drift. In other words, it takes thought, resolve, energy, and effort to bring about reform. In the grace of God, sometimes human beings display such virtues. But where such virtues are absent, the drift is invariably toward compromise, comfort, indiscipline, sliding disobedience and decay that advances, sometimes at a crawl and sometimes at a gallop, across generations.Site Publisher Addendum (2/25/11):
People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, and obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.
We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.” (bold added)
The original publication of this article was in part a reaction to the announcement by Joe Zichterman that he had joined the membership of the Willow Creek Community Church. He has since moved on to Multnomah University. Please see, The Joseph Zichterman Issue. There are of course elements in this article that have a clear application to the current craze among some self-described separatists to embrace, minister along side and host non-separatist evangelicals in Fundamental churches and their educational institutions.