The ancient path and contemporary detours
Scott Fowler, a Southern Baptist and native of St. Louis who is the superb lead singer for Legacy Five, a popular Southern Gospel music group who was among more than 20 who performed at the 41st Brumley Gospel sing Aug. 5-8 at the Cowan Civic Center here, shared an incredible story with the audience.
Fowler said a few days before the group was to perform at a large church in Florida recently, they received a phone call from the church and were told they could perform provided they did not share the Gospel, give their personal testimonies or pray in Jesus’ name.
Fowler said they told the church if those were the conditions, then “Legacy Five would not be coming to their church.” He went on to warn the crowd of more than 5,000 on the final night of the Brumley event that political correctness has infiltrated too many churches and it must be resisted. His story and admonition was followed by thunderous applause.
Fowler is right. Too many churches in America have forsaken the canon of Scripture and teachings regarding the important doctrines of the faith “which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). For 2,000 years the Christian movement has passed down carefully conceived creeds and confessions as well as ways of worshiping, witnessing and working on behalf of others. These ancient paths have their grounding in the Bible and they have proven helpful to the church, no matter the era. This was the primary motivation behind naming this newspaper The Pathway, based on Jeremiah 6:16: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”
The rest of that verse goes on to say, “But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” Sadly, today too many churches are abandoning the ancient paths passed down by the saints through the centuries. This is occurring in many ways, but perhaps in no area is this more apparent than in doctrine. Like the church to which Fowler referred, doctrine is not important and human needs – including one’s self-esteem – are now a priority. The goal is no longer doctrine based on biblical truth, but toleration for a variety of views and a willingness to get along at any cost. We often extol the Puritans, but do not want to worship or live as they did.
Another area of the church greatly impacted is worship. Old hymns, containing the very words of God and with such rich theology, are rarely sung and when they are, they are put to new beats to make them “relevant.” Peter Masters, who fills the historic pulpit at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England (the one once filled by Charles Haddon Spurgeon) recently observed how we are teaching a new generation to worship: “Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere. Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment.” Too often sin is downplayed and even suppressed while a more celebrative style is thought to be in order to hold attention or draw a crowd.
Too often the pulpit is used to promote the latest guru and the best-selling “feel good” book, instead of being the citadel for the expository proclamation of God’s complete Word. Theologian T.M. Moore offers this observation: “Teaching about the Law of God is … abandoned once we depart the ancient paths. The Law, which is holy and righteous and good, is set aside for an ethic of ‘love’ vaguely defined in terms of ‘What would Jesus do?’ – without, of course, stopping to reflect that what Jesus would do in every ethical situation is keep the Law of God. The people of God today simply do not want to walk the ancient paths. We know better what ‘works’ to get people to come to church and keep coming back for more.”
Fowler spoke the truth and the Brumley audience agreed with him. I know all of us at The Pathway and the Missouri Baptist Convention staff under the leadership of David Tolliver do, too. We also recognize in these contemporary, politically correct times we are “swimming upstream.” Yet, I am reminded of the challenging, convicting call of Joshua: “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”