By Dusty Owens
The people of God have a tendency to become dissatisfied with God’s ways and to desire the ways of men. The Old Testament supplies us with example after example where this is true. At the time of Samuel, when Jehovah was still considered king of Israel, the people clamored to the prophet, “Make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:5). This displeased Samuel, but God consoled him, “They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me” (v. 7).
This desire to be “like all the nations” indicated (1) a lack of faith in God, (2) a greater faith in man’s ways, and (3) a certain feeling of shame and inferiority compared to their neighbors. There are times when I see God’s people manifest this same attitude. When we desire to be “like all the denominations” around us, and to compromise or change what is revealed in God’s word, we are making the same mistake Israel did in clamoring for a king! Let us look carefully at some of these things.
An Expensive, Extravagant Church Building
Many think that this is the answer to converting masses of people to Christ. They see their religious neighbors building huge and expensive edifices and attracting large crowds, so they want to do the same. These same masses of people are converted to the beautiful pile, and not to Christ! When around them, all I hear them talking about is “the beautiful church we have.” Not a word about Christ! We need to be reminded that God “dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is he served by men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:24). We need to be content with the modest buildings we meet in, and continue to persuade men to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved.
Watered-Down Preaching In some churches of Christ today the preaching is so diluted that you can not tell it apart from the preaching of the denominations. In other places, brethren are afraid to bring their friends and relatives to the assembly for fear the preacher will mention a denomination by name and embarrass them. Others are of the persuasion that if the preacher would just preach on “love” and “going to heaven,” we would increase our members like “other churches.” Paul failed not to declare the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), and shrank not from declaring . . . anything that was profitable” (v. 20). He encouraged Timothy and Titus to preach and teach the “sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10; Tit. 2:1). He warned, “The time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away from the truth, and turn aside unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
The Social Gospel
Included in this desire to “be like all the nations” is the heavy emphasis on socializing. The thought here is that if the church will provide more activities for its people, then those people will be converted and be more faithful. The preaching that takes place is ladened with “social reform” and “self development through a Positive Mental Attitude.” There is nothing wrong with these ideas in their place. What I object to is the de-emphasizing of the blood-bought redemption of Christ, and the one church through which salvation comes, (because this kind of preaching “offends folks and you can’t build a church that way”), replacing them with sermonettes full of cute little stories that “everyone loves to hear.” Friends, the only thing that will save people’s souls from hell is the plain, unadulterated teaching of Jesus Christ! Jesus said, “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man also shall be ashamed of him, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mk. 8:38). Paul professed, “I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16). Pray that the preacher will preach the word of God boldly!
The “We’re Number One” Mania
Some denominational churches are determined to be the “largest church in town.” You can see this attitude displayed in everything they do. Churches are resorting to gymnasiums, banquet halls, swimming pools, bowling alleys, and fellowship halls to attract enough people so they can qualify as “number one.” Why, they even “bribe” the kids with candy, gum and other prizes to get them to come and be part of the great number. This is something we may expect from the denominational world; after all, if men establish their own churches, they ought to be able to run them any way they want to. But, when brethren get caught up in these sinful measures, it is truly a shame! It is nothing but pride in the worst meaning that motivates them. The Bible teaches, “By pride cometh only contention; But with the well-advised is wisdom” (Prov. 13:10). Contention has come among God’s people because there are many who are steeped with pride, and who desire to be “like all the nations.” They insist, above the cries of conscientious brethren, on having their evil ways. Being “number one” is more important than “being one” with the brethren.
God has chosen the true believers in Christ to be “a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Pet. 2:9). This means that God has separated us from the rest of the “nations” (churches), and He expects us to follow His prescribed way in everything we do (2 Jn. 9-11). His ways are not man’s ways, and we are not free to deviate (Gal. 1:8-9). Would anyone dare to suggest that we should “be like all the nations”?
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 3, pp. 81-82
February 7, 1985