A sad fact of life today in many Christian churches is that the message is confused: the pastors set the agenda and many people follow. But is that the Church that Jesus established? Is that the Church that Paul describes? Not at all. But the problem is not new with this latest generation of pastors, leaders, and churches.
Paul wrote to his protege, Timothy in his second letter, these sobering, realistic, necessary words:
12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:12–17 NAS)
If you believe in Jesus Christ and want to lead a godly life, the expectation is that you will be persecuted—in the church! And the church will not lack for “evil men and imposters” (v. 13). They will not be content with how God describes and desires the church to be, rather as evil men and imposters, they are not only open to deception but they will deceive so that the deterioration of the church will continue. The deceivers will mock, ridicule, and manipulate Christians who hold to the truth.
Paul lays out the path to follow for us as Christians. Notice that Paul does not give “Five easy steps to have a better marriage” nor “How to be successful in life” nor “Love everyone and be open to learn how to explore greater dimensions of spirituality.” Rather, Paul points them back to the basics of the Christian faith centered on Jesus Christ. That means seeing what the Bible says about sin, law, confession, forgiveness, Gospel (what Jesus Christ has done for us and still does for us), namely 2 Tim. 3:14-15.
Paul is not encouraging or promoting “new ways,” rather what has been given in Scripture is sufficient for all time: it is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Rather than blazing new trails ahead, Paul is calling Christians back to that which was given by God centuries ago, even before the era of the New Testament.
For pastors and teachers, popularity, latest trends or fashion are not the solutions, and never were. Nor is rewinding the calendar to a “golden age” the answer. Going back to what Scripture taught, what faithful pastors and teachers have proclaimed from Scripture, that will be revolutionary for the church today. And that will be life saving for people and churches as they grow in faith in Jesus Christ. Then not only pastors, but every Christian can rightly “reprove, correct, and train in righteousness, equipped for every good work” for the benefit of the church.