The evangelical church is under constant threat to compromise its reliance on biblical truth. The human desire to be accepted, to not be seen as “outside the mainstream,” can be overwhelming. But that desire is our weakness, our downfall. It does not always immediately destroy the dam we build to protect the waters of truth, but instead it leads to tiny fissures that grow until destruction is inevitable.
Twenty years ago, I experienced the painful demise of the Episcopal Church, who once was a bastion of biblical truth. It was not a pretty picture. It was a picture painted in the primary colors of relentlessness and deception.
The combination of those elements inevitably led some sincere folks to weariness, and willingness to compromise, and yes, ultimately to surrender. For those who sought peace at any price, conformity over conviction, and popularity over principle, capitulation seemed the easier way out.
The initial compromise, which caused the first cracks in the dike, seemed innocent enough at the time: the ordination of women.
But to truly understand how that initial compromise caused a wave of liberalism to overcome biblical boundaries within the Episcopal Church (and soon by the rest of the mainline denominations), we have to understand the different groups involved.
Sincere followers of Christ made up the first group. They believed in Jesus and the scriptures. To them, the effort to ordain women seemed genuine. But they ultimately bought into the secular argument that the ordination of women was merely an issue of equality, sharing power, responding to new realities, and gaining relevancy with modern culture. Those believers were most troublesome of all. Although they adhered to the secular perspective, no one could accuse them of having “departed the faith once delivered.”
The second group, which pushed the breached even further, was comprised of people who were religious but biblically illiterate. They followed a simple faith not rooted in history. They were more willing to follow than to think.
The third group was made up of committed liberals, or as I prefer to call them, apostates. That group often worked behind the scenes. They hid in the shadows, preferring to steer the second group forward while putting pressure on the first group. They fueled the secular media with proclamations that the church was “hopelessly out of touch with the real world” or that the “male-dominated church is unwilling to share power with women.”
The media—which loves to denigrate the church and its leadership for refusing to adhere to a godless culture—used its powerful megaphone to condemn the church. Of course, the media never understood that ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ is not about power. A pastor models himself after Jesus, who “did not come to be served, but to serve.”
When apostate Christians and agnostics were allowed to set the agenda and define the arguments, the faint of heart self-consciously sought to surrender. Quickly abandoned were Martin Luther’s words: “Here I stand. I can do no other.”
The ordination of women was not the end of the road—not by any means. Those who had stood up for adherence to biblical standards knew all too well that the push for compromise was merely a prelude to a long hidden agenda: extreme feminism, abortion rights, homosexual advocacy, and the tolerance of all sorts of unsavory practices within the church.
Back then, I watched and wept over the first group; they were my comrades in arms, and they surrendered their birthright for a morsel of peace and acceptability. They surrendered their birthright, and before long, the cracks in the dam led to its massive collapse.
When communities in the Bible rejected the disciples, Jesus instructed his followers to shake the dust off their feet and move on. He did not instruct them to compromise in order to avoid rejection. He told them that rejection would be part of the deal.
Countless followers of Jesus, from those first disciples to today’s martyrs, have ultimately given their lives rather than compromise. That same courage is expected of us as well.