Summary: Six areas of balance essential to as successful Christian walk are discussed in this Pastor’s farewell address.
Maintaining Balance in Practice and Doctrine
This morning and next Sunday will be my last two messages as Pastor of this church. Two opportunities to speak—and then I must entrust you to others. That reality weighed heavily upon me as I sought the Lord for this message. What must I leave with you for the future? What will help you most in the days, months, and years ahead? What must not be left unsaid? The message I have settled on is entitled: Maintaining Balance in Practice and Doctrine.
Years of pastoral ministry have taught me this one thing: a congregation can crash on either side of the road. Steering a car is the art of keeping it in the proper lane—not too far to the right and not too far to the left. That has become second nature for those of you who have been driving for years. But do you remember when you first learned to drive? You would sweep to the right to make sure you didn’t hit on-coming traffic. But then when you felt the shoulder you would sweep to the left. The safe zone is in the middle. And you knew the importance of staying there.
There are six areas of balance that are particularly important to remember.
I. Faddism and Traditionalism
Over last few decades we’ve seen a lot of fads hit the church—new, novel things that everybody ran after for awhile—valid truths that were overemphasized. I remember when deliverance was the fad—end time prophesy—dancing—healing of memories—church growth techniques—shepherding— lengthening legs. How many have been around long enough to remember the leg lengthening fad? Every other service people were praying for legs to be lengthened yet nobody got taller. You would have thought someone would suggest checking the height on all these people whose legs were lengthened. But people were just following the momentum. I suspect that that whole thing began with someone actually receiving that kind of healing. But just because God does a good thing doesn’t mean we need to create a movement out of it.
In every fad there is usually an element of truth. But once everybody jumps on the bandwagon and adds their two cents worth, what may have begun even as a correction of past error goes to such an extreme that it becomes error. Most error is a truth taken to an extreme without attendance to the balancing truths in Scripture.
Acts 17 describes some of the people in Athens as those who spent all their time seeking to hear some new thing. Acts 17:21 “(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)”
There is something in our flesh that loves new and curious things. I’ve noticed over the years Charismatics who just live for some new spiritual excitement. If they hear something’s going on across town they run there to get in on it. If it’s in Oklahoma City they run there. If it’s in Kansas City they run there. It’s a bit like people who scan emergency radios and run to watch the fires. They never accomplish much of anything once they get there. But they love to share in the excitement. Could I just suggest that as zealous as that might appear, it’s a very different thing from devotion and service to the Lord? I can pretty well guarantee you that whatever everyone is running after today they won’t be running after it tomorrow. And I can assure you there are new Christian fads right around the corner.
The trick is to discern substance from surface. God does bring fresh emphasis on certain truths at times. But a mature Christian will keep that in perspective and not ignore other truths. Paul wrote in Eph 4:14-15 “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Christ –“ NKJV Don’t be tossed about by every new thing that comes along.
On the other hand, be open to fresh ways God may express Himself in the church. The Foursquare denomination has done a pretty good job on receiving inspiration from fresh operations of the Spirit without getting weird. Many older denominations are dying because they have becomes so bound to past tradition that they aren’t responding to fresh moves of God. In fact, some have even opposed fresh works of God because it was different from their tradition. We don’t want to be gullible and open to any and everything that comes along. But we don’t want to be closed and inflexible either. Don’t reject ways just because they are old. Biblical truths and principles are eternal because they proceed from the character of God Himself. Paul told the church at Thessalonica 2 “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (Thess 2:15 NKJV) Tradition provides stability and context for new things to be built upon. Don’t reject the old just because it’s old. Don’t reject the new just because it’s new. When God told Noah a flood was coming and to build a boat Noah had to embrace some new ideas. When God told Abraham to leave Ur he had to step out into areas of the unknown. The criterion is not whether it is old or new but whether it is consistent with God’s character. With the rise in pluralism in this country we had better know how to distinguish between substance and surface. With the rapid change in the culture we will be challenged to stay relevant while staying true to biblical principles—the balance between faddism and traditionalism.