Messy Church and the Loss of the Antithetical Principle
Liberal Christians want to befriend the world. Their ambition is to use the wisdom and power of the Gospel to be the change they want to see in the world. Is this God’s plan of salvation — to fix the broken world?
One of the ways liberals attempt to unite the church and the world is to make the church more like the world. The hope is that if the world sees how worldly the church can be, the world will want to be like the church, or want to be a part of the church, or at least not persecute the church.
In recent years, the marketing slogan for the church, to prove to the world that the church is hip and worldly, is to refer to the church as “messy church.” Eugene Peterson was the first to use the terms together, and the novelty of his reflection on his own congregation was appreciated. Fad slogans, employed by the church in America, often do have good beginnings. Overkill sets in, and then we are forced to ask, “What would Jesus do with the slogan of the moment?”
There is no doubt the church in America is a mess, but is this how we should self-identify? Is this our promotional message to the world, “We are just like you! Excuse our mess!” Sadly, with a borderline antinomian spirit, messy church has replaced holy church.
Of course, the charge of self-righteous bigot and other misnomers are precursors for the church to self-deprecate in the worldly sense. Overdone self-debasing, in a manner of snowflakes (white, liberals who hate the fact that God made them with white skin) in current cultural politics, is silly. Proper self-abasement actually comes from the preaching of the biblical doctrine of total human depravity. Put another way, sink every ship in the ocean of sin, and then preach Christ the Savior, as the only hope. In this, the bad news is universal, but the good news is exclusive.
Liberal Christians do not like, nor believe, in total depravity. They are more attuned to man-centered humanism (human potential), than biblical anthropology (total depravity). Instead of learning about this vital “bad news,” Liberal churches are out posturing in front of the world, “Look at the good works of this bad girl!”
At the heart of the error of messy church is the loss of the antithetical principle, “Do not love the world, nor the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him (1 Jn 2:15). When churches affirm all kinds of sins, in order to be more attractive to the world of sinners, they have missed the biblical call for separation found in 2 Corinthians 6:11–18. When was the last time you heard a clear message for God’s people to exit the whore of Babylon, posing as the bride of Christ?
Believers and unbelievers have nothing to do with one another, in the same manner that Christ and Belial (Satan) have no friendship (2 Cor 6:15). The Gospel message, preached in the Spirit of Christ, creates separation between the church and the world. The world is under condemnation from God, and sinners are condemned already (Jn 3:18). These are not popular ideas in messy church.
Noah condemned the world, by building the ark in the midst of scoffers (Heb 11:7). He preached righteousness, not messy church. Christ is our righteousness, and we proclaim Him to a world justly under the wrath of God (Rom 1:18–32). The perfection of Christ is an offense to messy world, and His soon coming, to destroy His enemies and the earth/heavens (old creation), is an embarrassment to messy church, with its agenda to change the world.
Let us once again preach the bad news to the world, God’s Word of judgment, on the ways and the future of this place of total rebellion against God, the Creator. Exalting Christ and Him crucified, let us return to the good news for God’s people — this world is not our home. Christ is our only hope, yesterday, today, and forever. In this, the church will bask in His holiness, instead of messing herself in the mess of this world.
Spokane Valley, Washington
September 6, 2021