Have you ever heard of a church or a Christian describe themselves as being progressive? On the surface this might sound great, I mean who doesn’t want to be constantly changing and growing right?
But is that what people mean?
‘Progressive churches’ can be very hip and trendy, they can have great music, have a very charismatic leadership team and be doing great things for the community. But is that enough, is that what church is about?
The more time I spend in conversations with ‘progressive’ Christians it seems to me that the progression is actually a movement away from the Bible. The world is a wonderful place, but ideas are constantly changing and different worldviews are shaping how society thinks and approaches certain issues.
The big ‘no no’ of our day is to offend someone. If you say something that might offend or contradict what another person believes then you can be called intolerant. D.A Carson wrote about this in his book The intolerance of tolerance (here’s my review of it).
The impact this can have on churches and Christians is that they can feel pressured to adapt their message, appearance, structure or theological framework and understanding of the Bible to accommodate the world. Whilst some of those changes don’t really matter, the fundamental problem with this thinking is that the church is not called to be like the world. The church is supposed to be different, but for the right reasons!
Should the church stop people from entering their building who don’t look like them? Absolutely not!
Should a church judge people based on their appearance, sexuality or worldview? Absolutely not!
Should a church change it’s understanding of the Bible and its teachings to seem more ‘inclusive and understanding’ to the world? Absolutely not!
I know that a lot of people will disagree with me on this, but if we start changing our view of Scripture and we start to water down the message of the Bible to make it easier to fit in with the world, where do we stop?
The Church is not supposed to be a social club where we gather to chat about our weeks and the weather. The Church is the household of God, the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).
The truth will offend people, that’s just reality. Nobody likes to hear that they are sinners, that hell and judgement exist, that God has a set order both in the church and in the house, and that God has set out a wonderful blueprint for marriage and sexuality. If we water down these messages so that we seem less weird to the world, then we are watering down God’s Word. That should not be done lightly!
So, is ‘progressive’ a positive thing in the Church? No, and in actual fact I think that it is dangerous. By watering down certain issues that the Bible is very clear on, we are giving people a wrong understanding of God’s Word, we are not being faithful witnesses to the world and we are calling people to a more comfortable view of God.
I do hope that all of the ‘progressive’ churches and Christians wrestle with God’s Word and take that as the basis for everything that they do. There will never be a day when the whole Church will agree on every single matter, and there should be a clear difference between primary and secondary matters of importance. But watering down, or not obeying, a part of God’s Word because it can be seen as offensive or counter cultural is definitely not the answer!
Whatever church you go to, make sure that the foundation of that church is God’s Word. In it He has revealed Himself and we should not change this for the sake of being ‘progressive’. Let us instead strive to be faithful!