There’s a used bookstore I like to frequent in the Nashville area anytime I’m there that has a large religious section. Littering the shelves are any kind of religious book you can imagine whether it be commentaries, devotional books, theological books discussing specific issues, historical books, linguistic tools, etc. But, you know, it seems like every time I’m there looking, digging, anticipating finding a few treasures to add to my library that there is always this one title that’s on their shelves. I’ve never read it. To be honest I’ve never even picked it up or scanned through it. Really I’ve never been able to get past the title. The name of the book is “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.”
It’s not that I’m surprised that somebody wrote a book by that title. I’ve actually been directly told that myself. I’ve been told that the church needs to change, or at least soften its position on matters like creationism, homosexuality, and the uniqueness of Christianity itself. I’ve heard the talking points about how the church needs to become more appealing to the world or else it is going to lose its opportunity to reach the world. I have many problems with this mentality but I have one particular fundamental problem which is this – if we change the church to reach the world we might inflate our numbers but we cease to be the church.
There’s something special about the church that God designed and that He was willing to sacrifice His own Son in order to establish. It’s referred to as Jesus’ bride (Revelation 21:2) and His body (Ephesians 5:23). The church is His kingdom (John 3:5), His house (1 Timothy 3:15), and His temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). It was planned, prophesied, and purchased by God Himself (Isaiah 2:2,3; Daniel 2:44; Joel 2:28-32). It was God who designed His church, built His church, and organized His church. God has full authority over His church (Matthew 28:18) meaning that He alone has the right to dictate what the church believes, how the church lives, and who the church is. Is any of this not true? Tell me if it’s not.
Now let’s take this thought one step further. If God designed His church, built His church, organized His church, and legislated to His church according to some very fundamental principles then if we change the design, the organization, or the doctrine of His church does it not cease to be His church? Doesn’t that make the church something that is fundamentally different from what God intended for it to be? And doesn’t that mean that the church isn’t God’s anymore?
If God is God, perfect, almighty in power, and infinite in wisdom, then is there any way that we can improve on God’s design, His plan, His organization, or His doctrine? I mean how can the creation improve on anything the Creator has done? And if we can’t improve on it then what right do we have to change it? Wouldn’t any change that we make be a change for the worse instead of for the better? So part of our responsibility as Christians is to keep the church the church; to respect it for what it is and treat it with the reverence that it deserves. If we are going to be members of that church shouldn’t we believe what He’s told us to believe (because it’s right), teach what He’s told us to teach (because it’s right), and live the way He’s told us to live (because it’s right).
The world can mock us, belittle us, hate us, and torment us in any way that they want. But at the end of the day true Christians believe, teach, and do what we do because that’s the way God intended, because it shows respect to the God to whom we’ve committed our lives, and because it is an integral part of keeping the church the church.
Andy Brewer is the minister at the Phillips Street church of Christ in Dyersburg, Tennessee. He also is the author of the blog “Bigger Better Faith“ and is director of the Reelfoot Christian Youth Camp, which this year will be July 12-17.