In the past few decades a line has been drawn in the sand in the evangelical world, and that line is Biblical Inerrancy. My own circle, the Southern Baptist Convention, waged this battle and came out with a sturdy belief that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant word of God. However, although this battle has been fought and won, this precious doctrine that was worth fighting for plays little influence on the churches practice. I've noticed a difference between philosophical inerrancy and functional inerrancy. Although many conservative churches would attest to the belief in the inerrant word of God, if you observed their practices, that belief seems to be absent. This litmus test of conservatism, biblical inerrancy, is nothing more that a box to be checked off but never a belief to be applied. Here are a three areas where I see a disconnect between belief and practice in the local church:
A good conservative preacher will take his Bible hold it up to the congregation and declare with all confidence that it is the word of God, but judging on the content of his sermons the church would never know it. The sermons are filled with cliche stories or a creative acrostic, but never deep exposition of the word of God. The pastor as he preaches spends more time looking up creative illustrations than ever reading and studying the passage. Pastors, although we proclaim the Bible as the very Word of God, does our scholarship and sermons reflect this belief or do we just use the Bible as a launching pad to discuss our own ideas and agendas? In the content of our sermons, can our people discern if we actually believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God?
Church Growth and Strategy
Your church is on the decline. Membership isn't increasing. Less and less money is being collected. Your church is hitting that point of desperation. Where is the first place to turn? Well the first place we to turn to is an outside consultant. We spend money in research and church growth strategies. We read up on all the latest trends in growing your church and begin to imitate models done by other churches in hopes that our church becomes like them. The last place we ever turn to for the health of our church is the Bible. We never ask the hard questions such as, "Is our church following the guidelines set in scripture?" We don't dive into our Bibles that we hold so dearly to make decisions on church membership, church polity, or the churches purpose. Rather, we go first to the latest trends. We believe that the Bible is inerrant, we just don't believe it is sufficient for the faith and practice of our local church.
If your church has been around long enough, there are traditions and habits that your church will begin to develop. Some of these are good habits, while others can be a great hinderance. In my observations, the protestant church is far more catholic than we realize. Our methods, service orders, and traditions often become equal authority to the Word of God. We build our church centered around our traditions instead of the God breathed Word. Protestant churches, who would claim the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, can often find themselves in the hypocritical situation of holding their own traditions to the same level of authority of Scripture. In belief, we hold to the authority of the Scripture alone, but in practice we through tradition in there too.
Although many of us believe that the Bible is the Word of God, do we really believe that it is sufficient for all things pertaining to the faith? I hope that you will dive into your Bibles. If we really believe that all scripture is God-Breathed, then may our lives reflect that truth. May we read and reread our Bibles. May we memorize and saturate our minds in its truths. As a Christian may you not be just a philosophical inerrantist, but in practice people could see that you believe that the Bible is the very Word of God. Because after all, do you really believe it if you never put it into practice?
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Have you observed this? Have you seen this disconnect in churches?