It is a scary exercise to contemplate the future. There is so much we do not know, so many variables we cannot accurately evaluate. Still, trends around us might suggest a general direction that might allow us in the broadest terms to make some good guesses. “A” does often lead to “B” in a world where God’s principle of sowing and reaping will never pass away.
What does this have to do with anything in a series about issues we face in the Independent Baptist world? In comes into play when we ask…where will we be in 10 years?…where will we be in 25 years? To answer these questions and make sensible predictions will involve considering two areas: 1) the natural progression of issues in this series, and 2) trends in our country that affect every Christian group.
Natural Progression Of Truth Revolution Issues
1. The Pants Issue will fade away. It will retreat greatly in 10 years and fade almost completely in 25 years. It has been divisive, split a few families and churches along the way, but it simply will not last. Hundreds drop it yearly and others are trying to get up their nerve. The logic behind this prediction comes from those constantly shrinking numbers, from the inability to frame either a biblical argument for its necessity or an intelligent explanation for how pants and immodesty (a clear Biblical idea) are synonymous, and track records of other such standards as strongly upheld in other generations. For example, 30 years ago TV was as forbidden in as many Independent Baptist homes as pants are today. Where is the TV issue today? Almost every one of those homes have a TV today.
2. The Music Issue will change but it will not go away. I do not believe what is argued today will be the same in either 10 or 25 years. The logic there is that there has always been a music debate and likely always will be. Music, in some respects, is a matter of taste. There will always be a temptation to confuse that with its being not worldly. It will always be hard to pin down. The Fanny Crosbys of the world can be radical in one generation to some groups and too conservative in another. I can’t see what would change it.
3. Alliances among several Independent Baptists groups will shift. History dictates this prediction. Every 10 or 25 years the most vocal groups cycle a few times. Yesterdays close friend is preached against at today’s conference. This lamentable fact likely is a natural result of a hyper separatist outlook all too common in some circles. Couple that with the sin tendencies we all fight and it is inevitable.
4. Standards may change, but legalism will thrive. Legalism has always thrived and will till Jesus comes. The temptation to self-righteousness and a need to earn God’s favor will never end until Satan is chained. Religion arises from the dark core of who we are as sinners. Even those who love holiness and hate legalism are haunted at some deep level by these Gospel-hating, grace-denying thoughts. The best we can do is get it right on a personal level.
5. Our greatest challenges will arise from without. For some time our challenges have come from within (hence this blog series). I can’t pin down if it will be real soon, 10 years, or 25 years, but we won’t need articles like this series for long. That leads to…
Trends in our country that affect every Christian group
I may sound overly pessimistic here (I sincerely hope someone can show me this article in 25 years and tell me I was an idiot!), but recent news and changes that are being made in our country do not bode well for Christianity, at least as we have known it and handled it. A persecuted church may thrive in ways we have been seen before, but it will surely change what we are used to.
1. Bus Ministry will die. I am in no way criticising what has been a blessing in many ways. My only negative would be those who only use it as an attendance and baptism numbers game, but it has brought many under the sound of the Gospel. Beyond the growing antagonism toward the outreach in some communities, and the ever-expanding possibilities of lawsuits and accusations, the openness of our government to criminalize Christian work doesn’t bode well for bus ministry.
2. Church-run Christian schools will fall by the wayside. They are already closing in alarming numbers as the financial side is now close to impossible. The likelihood of a national approval of homosexual marriage and the corresponding ability of the IRS to revoke tax-exempt status for an anti-homosexual marriage stand will surely be the greatest challenge for us. When we lose that exemption, a 30% tax rate may kick in. Schools will evaporate in a moment in that environment. Our Bible Colleges will be strained as well.
3. Decreased giving will strain all churches and ministries. We have long faced Christian apathy and disobedience, but the loss of a deduction for charitable donation will erode giving even more. Couple that with paying taxes on what we do get and that will be financial crisis. I am in no way saying the Lord cannot provide, but that how we do things will change to what is done in other parts of the world today. With this potentiality, even taking on long-term debt or large building projects are tenuous at best.
4. Other changes will follow. It is hard to predict what other dominos that may fall. It may require the churches going underground. Our invitation-to-church approach will likely give way to one-on-one work only
Perhaps this is enough legitimate prediction. My faith in God has not wavered. I still believe He can take care or me and you. Still, I know changes to all I have known will be a challenge for me. Maybe it would be time to pray and prepare our hearts for the handwriting on the wall. And for sure it is time to live for what is really important. If it won’t be important in an underground-church environment, it likely isn’t too important now.
(You know I don’t really like this article myself, but I am compelled to write it. God bless you all!)
Find all articles in the series here.