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June 11, 2011
What is a contemporary church and why is it wrong?
I was recently asked this question in response to a comment I had made regarding contemporary churches.

First, in this context, the word contemporary simply means of the present time or modern. So, we could equally say that a contemporary church is a modern church. In itself, there is nothing wrong with a church having modern aspects to its operation. For example, when Paul preached, he did not have the benefit of using a public address system. A modern church service is certainly aided by the use of some kind of public address system. The congregations Paul preached to did not have the benefit of electric lighting, air conditioning, heating, indoor plumbing and many other modern conveniences. None of these conveniences are contrary to the Word of God. In fact, they all assist us in spreading the Word through preaching.

If using modern conveniences and technologies does not harm the spread of the Gospel and does no violence to Scripture, what is wrong with ‘modern’? Often, we must look at the connotative meaning (common use) of a word as well as its denotative (dictionary) meaning. Compared to the churches Paul started, I attend a modern church, but I do not attend a contemporary church. What is the difference?

There are several aspects which will identify a contemporary church. The most predominate of these aspects will feed the contemporary church’s root in liberalism. That first issue is a compromise on the Word of God. As soon as a church moves away from the Blessed Old Book (for the English-speaking people, this is the King James Version Bible), compromise begins. We have discussed the Word of God and the KJV on many different occasions. The KJV-Only road has two ditches which will lead to error. The first is the position that anything called a Bible is okay. At their root, these other versions are translations of inaccurate or incomplete original manuscripts. The other ditch is the so-called Ruckman position which claims that the KJV translators in 1611 received a second revelation and were able to correct the original texts (as if Paul didn’t get it exactly right).

Ultimately, it comes back to the contemporary church’s position on the Word of God. There are three basic positions one can adopt concerning the Word of God:
The Bible is the Word of God
This is the foundation of our faith: the Bible is the Word of God. If we did not believe the Bible is the Word of God, we have freedom to apply the Bible as we see fit. We would believe there is nothing divine about the Bible and there is nothing special about it. However, when we accept that the Bible is the Word of God, we must acknowledge that God exists and that God has spoken. Moreover, we must acknowledge that God has spoken to us in a personal letter. The natural conclusion is that we must honor and obey the letter God has written to us. We must also acknowledge (as anyone with any common sense would) that God cannot lie and cannot break HIS promises. If we accept these facts, we must also accept that God’s Word is absolute truth.
The Bible becomes the Word of God
Those who adopt this position believe the Bible is a guide for life, but is not necessarily God’s letter to us. The Word of God is what the individual decides to apply to their life. It is only the Word of God if God chooses (in the individual’s opinion) to apply it to their heart.
The Bible contains the Word of God
Parts of the Bible are God’s Word, parts are not. You decide. Under this premise, the reader of the Bible (or whatever the reader calls the Bible) has the liberty to discern for himself what is and is not actually the Word of God. If the reader doesn’t like what he reads, he can simply discount it believing it is not God’s Word.

At any rate, the contemporary church will be identified by it's flawed position on the Word of God. If someone builds a building on a flawed foundation, the entire building will be off. Likewise, a church which does not have a foundation upon the Word of God (which is in an English speaking country, the KJV Bible) will be off just as much as any building built upon a weak, flawed foundation.

When the contemporary church dilutes the Word of God through incomplete or imperfect versions, the Gospel and the commands to spread the Gospel will also be diluted. Many members of contemporary churches are taught that a confrontational evangelism is not God's intention. As believers, we are to share our testimony and the Word of God with others to convince them of their need for salvation. Contemporary churches teach that that a social gospel is the real need. They teach that it is more important to fill a belly than share the Bread of Life. We are not commanded to feed the poor - we are commanded to preach the Gospel. It is through the foolishness of preaching that men are saved.  God never promised to feed all of the poor or needy, He promised to take care of His children (no, everyone who draws a breath is not a child of God. Only the saved are children of God).

As soon as the King James Bible, the only true standard, is removed the decline of that church will begin. So, when you look at the contemporary church, you will see a church which has little, if any, preaching on sin and personal standards. There will be no preaching on separation, dress standards or personal holiness of any kind. It is very likely that sin will never be mentioned. If it is mentioned, it will only be in the most vague of terms. Of course, there are also many contemporary churches which openly endorse sin. I know of one contemporary church which participated in evangelism by passing out shot-glasses which simply said, “Give Jesus a shot.” How disgusting. Many contemporary churches will see nothing wrong with alcohol consumption or, in many cases, fornication. Another church, in their advocating of “sexual health” suggested that married couples abstain from physical relations for one month. At the same time, the same “Pastor” recommended that unmarried couples take more time to explore and experience all the joys of the physical relationship. There are also the contemporary churches which ignore the Word of God when it comes to homosexuality. Some merely condone the activity in their church while others believe there is nothing wrong with ordaining homosexuals to the ministry. The Bible is clear: homosexuality, adultery and fornication are all sins, and they are all sins which are endorsed in many contemporary churches.

In the same line, the contemporary church will likely not have a Biblical stand on marriage and divorce. So, their "pastor" will likely condone the marriage of people who are divorced, thus condoning their continual lifestyle of adultery. There are many churches which ordain deacons and pastors who are divorced and remarried. The Bible teaches that the pastor and deacon must be the husband of one wife.

Another clear indicator that a church is a contemporary church is the music. Praise bands and worship teams are the norm in many churches one would label as contemporary. Music is important to worship, but the music must be in order and the music must not violate other principles of Scripture. When the music sounds like a rock concert and the music “ministers” look and act no different than the world, you can bet you’re in a contemporary church. We have discussed music many times before. You need only search this blog for articles on music. There is not, necessarily, one genre which is correct. So long as the music is, well, music, and is distinctly different from the world’s music and praises the Lord or edifies the saint, there is nothing wrong with it. However, the so-called Christian contemporary music of our day is not distinctly different than the secular counterpart. Even if the CCM music has a different sound, it is likely performed by ecumenical performers whose goal is money, not praising the Lord.

Does the church yoke up with other churches of different denominations? Regardless of what your denomination is, if you even claim one, hopefully you are a member of that church because you believe what that church teaches. Why would you attend one kind of church and support another, different kind of church? Two different kinds of churches (denominations) will have different beliefs. If they were not different, they would be the same! The Bible commands that we should not yoke-up with unbelievers. Are other denominations non-believers? If they do not believe salvation is by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, they are.

The idea of joining with people who have different beliefs is what we call the ecumenical movement. The ecumenical movement has its roots as far back as the ancient nation of Israel. When the Israelites took wives from other nations (Exo34:16), they were compromising with those other nations to fulfill their physical desires. This is no different than the contemporary church which seeks to please the attendee’s flesh through music and entertainment or which seeks to please their congregation by condoning their sin (perhaps actively condoning or passively condoning it by not preaching on it). The Lord compared this mixing in with the unbelievers to adultery. Remember, adultery is a sin we can commit in our heart. The Israelites were God's people. At the same time, they were seeking physical pleasure outside of their relationship with God. Today, in the church age, the believers are the bride of Christ. When we 'covet' a lifestyle we cannot have, when we look to the worldly pleasures, when we step out of God's will for our lives, we are committing spiritual adultery. In Revelation 17 the Lord refers to the great whore as the one “…with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” With that in mind, the contemporary church is nothing more than a whore house for those who wish to commit their spiritual whoredoms.

There are as many ways a contemporary church can compromise as there are ways the human flesh can devise ways to sin. There simply isn’t enough time to detail them all. The shear simplicity is that the contemporary church is defined by the contemporary book it uses. From the use of a flawed book, the only possible result is a flawed walk with the Lord, if any at all. If the pastor of a church accepts that the Bible is absolutely the Word of God and preaches that truth, that church will have biblical standards and cannot, by definition, be a contemporary church.