The Adaptation of the Church

I don’t believe in evolution.  I used to, but through some in-depth study, and lots of prayer, I have been able to genuinely and confidently reject it.  However, I do believe in adaptation.  Evolution means that one sort of organism – like a bacteria – through time, chance, mutations, and natural selection, becomes another sort of organism, like an elephant. Adaptation is different. Adaptation is the process whereby a series of variations already within a population gets winnowed down to the few that are best suited to any particular environment. This is not a matter of adding anything new to the genetic material of the population, but simply weeding out what is not working as well as some other variations.

I believe that God enabled us to adapt to wherever we live, wherever we go. I also believe that the church adapts.  It cannot evolve.  It is subject to the head—Christ: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). He is in control of His church, we are His bride.  However, we have to ask the question, “Can the church adapt?”

Red flags begin to go up when we ask these kinds of questions.  We get uncomfortable with the idea of adaptation.  But, if you look at mission work in the world versus the church in America, you can see beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the church is indeed crafted to adapt.  Christ is cross-cultural.  In Him,

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

The church was hand-crafted by God to be an organism, not an organization.  Organisms grow and adapt.  The church breaks down social, racial, economic, and stereotypical walls. So the church then, does adapt.

Now, by adapting, one immediately thinks “changing everything.” True, adaptation involves change, but there are certain “non-negotiable” things that we cannot change.  Doctrine, the Message, God’s character…all these things can never ever change or be compromised.  We still have to be baptized for the remission of sins, we still are commanded to take the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.  We still stand on the foundations laid by God through the Prophets and Apostles that are found in His world, the very breath of God (2 Tim. 3:16). We will always “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). And you must always “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim 4:16). Doctrine never changes. It can’t, and if we change it, we will be held accountable.

However, that doesn’t mean that the methodology we use to present the unchanging message of God will always be the same. Do we still use flannel graphs?  Do we still use exclusively the Authorized 1611 King James Version? Do we still sing out of “Sacred Selections?” No.  I mean, some congregations do, but by and large we use the NIV.  We use Power Point to project Scriptures, announcements and song lyrics so everyone can see.   We sing from “Songs of the Church” or “Songs of Faith and Praise.”  The 1st century church didn’t have pews, or a pulpit, or air conditioning.  They didn’t have “hymnbooks” but rather composed their own worship and used the book of Psalms.  So you can see how the church has adapted, right?

Paul writes to the Corinthians saying,

“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:22-23).

Paul isn’t talking about changing messages or doctrine here.  He’s talking about changing methodology!  He’s talking about adapting to where you’re at and reaching out with the Gospel to everyone your can!  Why have we missed this point?  We craft our comfortable, predictable, and routine worship “services” out to meet our needs.  Not to meet God’s needs.  We spend the time entertaining ourselves and not denying ourselves.  We spend our resources on looking good on the outside all the while dying on the inside!

Adaptation is necessary.  Without it, the church ceases to make a difference because we begin to look just like the rest of the world.  We cheapen the church when we don’t adapt.  It becomes irrelevant.  We have become stagnant.  Maybe it is time we rethought the way we do things.  Is it really effective?  Are we truly reaching out? Or are we “at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1), look that up.  Just something to think about.

 

 

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