By Richard Hayes, District Representative, Southwest
The theme for this year’s summer staff conferences (#vmstaff18) was “An Unchanging Message in a Changing Culture.” The key verse can be found in Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (ESV). These concepts connect to the authority of God’s Word.
The Need for the Authority of God’s Word
We must remember that we live in the midst of a culture that has impacted and invaded the North American church. This is true whether it be rural, rural suburban, suburban–whatever it may be. Many churches reflect the culture much more than they reflect the Kingdom.
An issue in many churches is the authority of God’s Word. Many, if not most, churches have carefully crafted doctrinal statements that affirm the inspiration, inerrancy and authority of God’s Word. Yet, there is a reality that has supplanted such statements and usurped the Scripture’s authority in the minds of some Christians, that being experiences, spiritual or otherwise. A stroll through the aisles of books of a Christian book store, or internet search yields much the same result.
Personal experience has become authoritative over the objective truth of Scripture. The church and the individual believer are then rendered free to interpret their experiences as best fits their felt needs of the moment.
We are not the first, nor probably the last, generation of Christians to face this, or similar challenges. We continually come face-to-face with the tension of living in the world and its cultures, while not being conformed to them. Each of us has a personal responsibility to check the slide of our churches toward experientialism, no matter which form it may take.
When the authoritative, absolute, objective Word of God becomes secondary to a person’s personal experiences, the church is in trouble. Our Village Missionary pastors, as under-shepherds of the Chief Shepherd, have a responsibility to hold fast the Word of truth and call our people to submit to its authority.
We must stand on what we know to be true, that our authority is the Word of God.
The Word of God judges and interprets experiences. We live to be in a time where, in the minds of some Christians, personal or corporate experiences have the authority, and in turn these experiences validate actions, decisions, and doctrinal positions.
Our authority is found in the Word incarnate and the Word written. That is our basis for interpreting experiences and developing sound doctrinal positions on controversial issues.
Any other source of authority is inadequate and has usurped the all sufficient Word.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”