This is a series to further explain the articles of “A Conservative Christian Declaration.” .
We affirm the primacy of the local church in the conservation and nourishment of historic, biblical Christianity. We affirm that godly elders must patiently teach God’s Word and model right belief, living, and loving (1 Tim. 3:15, 4:16). We further affirm that such efforts must be fully dependent upon the sovereign will of God, which will ultimately be accomplished (Dan. 4:34–35).
We deny that the transmission of the Christian faith will occur primarily by individuals alone, in families disconnected from local churches, or through parachurch ministries. We further deny that the preservation of Christianity is ultimately dependent upon the meager efforts of finite people and especially any pragmatic methodology or programs.
In this declaration, we have outlined a call to know the Lord in the full dimensions of his truth, beauty, and goodness. But where will the world full of error, ugliness, and evil see such glory made known?
Jesus has already outlined his plan to manifest his glory in the world today. He said, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus Christ died and rose again to save his people from their sins, and as the Spirit applies his work in the world, a newly created body is growing up into Christ. That church is manifested in local assemblies around the world, and these on-the-ground communities provide the life context for making disciples.
Jesus has equipped these churches with just what is needed to nourish and conserve historic, biblical Christianity. Pastors and teachers preach and teach the Word, equipping the members of the body to build one another up to maturity. To each member is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. In these actual, gathered communities, God’s people can learn by experience what is excellent. Of course, if these assemblies pass on banal, trite, slipshod Christianity, the damage is very great. No parachurch ministry can make up the difference.
One of the reasons that no other kind of ministry can make up the difference is because Jesus has given these actual, gathered communities genuine authority (Matt. 18:15–22). To them Jesus has committed the administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. A podcast preacher or a writing teacher may do any number of good things for the saints, but these things always fall short of full-orbed Christianity. At the heart of Christianity is the church. No other institution or human organization on the earth today can do what the church does. No wonder God says that the church is the pillar and support of the truth. Actually, the gathered churches must hold this glory high.
The final affirmation of this document is not simply a tag line, a generic affirmation that God will ultimately do what he wants to do. It is rather a substantive assertion of a basic principle of conservatism, which serves a two-fold purpose.
Positively, it grounds our hope in God and lifts our eyes to his grand plan of redemption. Conservatives are known for pursuing the permanent things. What can be more permanent than the glorious, universal reign of the Alpha and Omega?
Negatively, it keeps placing our trust in any methodological fix. We are sometimes presented with selective statistics, bereft of biblical backing, and then told that we “must” do ministry a certain way. When this occurs, we cringe at the arrogance of puny minds which refuse to submit to the work of the Spirit. When we are sold the latest ministry paradigm which (we are told) is sure to produce results, we decline to pay even pocket change for it.
As you consider this declaration, we ask you to do so with the spirit expressed by Hosea’s words, “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord.” We want to behold the Lord’s glory, in all of his truth, goodness, and beauty, and we ask you to join us in this noble quest. May he receive glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.