Throughout life, you will likely find yourself in situations in which you are asked to compromise. Compromise, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. For example, in ministry, we cannot be so stubborn as to not be willing to work with others and find solutions that are conciliatory to keeping peace in a congregation of believers. In ministry, an unwillingness to compromise can never be based on pride (Prov 11:12), hardness of heart (Zech 7:11,12), arrogance (Prov 18:12), or haughtiness (Prov 16:18). In many cases, compromise can be a very good thing. At Ephesians Chapter 4, Paul instructs us to walk worthy of the calling we have received, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, and with diligence to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:2,3). Therefore, according to the intent and purpose of preserving unity through the bond of peace, God calls us to be willing to make certain necessary compromises.
What God will never call us to do however, is to be willing to compromise His word. God will never call us to neuter the convicting, soul-stirring effect of the truth of His word. Should you ever find yourself in a situation in which you are asked to compromise your wording because the term for what you are preaching is controversial, you would do well to remember that is exactly what Jesus experienced. In many ways, over the course of the last 2000 years, the religious establishment hasn’t changed much. Jesus’ teaching was doctrinally sound, but what He was preaching was very controversial to the accepted religious establishment of His day. In fact, Jesus was so controversial, that they crucified Him for it. If what you are preaching is doctrinally sound, then there is no reason to compromise your wording. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “O fools, and slow of heart! Open that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries.”
We tend towards manufacturing our churches to seem as inviting as possible, whether that means a never-ending building fund or the expense of compromising our message for the sake of appeal. We want to make sure that we make no offensive posturing, that we exude no potential controversy, lest we ward off any potential visitor, and we want a service that is as streamlined and predictable as possible. We want to be seeker-sensitive, and the more sensitive we are to their sensitivities, the greater the chance we’ll have at drawing them in.
We tend to be drawn more towards catering to the crowd, rather than catering to God, Who is the only One Who draws men. But we have this whole notion that it is us– our ideas, our abilities, our foresight, our manufactured appeal, our streamlined application of the church program– who draws people to Christ. We’ve built a whole generation of churches based on the notion of “entrepreneurship”– good public relations insight, risk vs. reward, productive business models, congregational development strategies, rousing worship, emotionally engaging messages– all of which, being the driving force behind our notion of a “successful” ministry. In so doing, we have robbed the Holy Spirit of His work. Sure, we are willing to acknowledge when God has “blessed our ministry”, we thank God for blessing “our efforts”, but who is really receiving the glory here? What would happen if God stripped a church of everything, back down to the foundations of Spirit and Grace, where all the work that was done by that church, in that church and through that church could only be attributed to God and God alone? Most churches today have lost such a sense of total abandonment towards God, which is why most churches today have been abandoned by the miracle-working presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
We follow a castrated version of Christianity. No longer should we practice an empty religion in a church whose congregation has been built on the backs of their own effort. It is far better to be in a congregation of a few fellow believers who have a whole-heart commitment to God, who are utterly dependent upon God at every turn, who have counted the cost to follow Christ and are willing to forsake this world and everything in it, and who have been supernaturally led together as a congregation by the Holy Spirit to truly walk-out what it means to be the Body of Christ– for better or for worse. We have to break free from the notion that it is we who determine what church we go to, and come to the realization that a church that is truly full of the Holy Spirit, is one which God has arranged by divine providence. The problem with the church today, is that we have lost faith in a God that big.
A.W. Tozer sums up this problem as such:
“Right now, we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead, are programs, methods, organizations, and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention, but can never satisfy the longings of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods, all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all.”
Scripture is very clear as to Who draws people to God: “No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets: ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from Him comes to Me.” (John 6:44,45). It is God Who prepares the soil of a person’s heart and mind to receive the truth of His message. God speaks, and we hear, learn and follow. God draws, we surrender. And we surrender because God gives us the ability to do so. This is God’s business model. Which means, if it is God Who is drawing someone to salvation and/or church fellowship, then there is nothing that will keep them from it. Not even a controversy worth being crucified for.
“My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. Among the mature, however, we speak a message of wisdom–but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.” (1 Cor 2:4-6).