The Trend of Fads
One of the aspects of evangelicalism I have noted is the increasing tendency to follow the newest trend on the block. Now, a bit of clarity and precision are both needed on this particular point. I am not opposed to “new inventions” as it pertains to using air conditioning, heat, running water, and microphones for congregational worship. Personally, I am rather glad we have air conditioning nowadays, especially during the middle of summer! However, chasing after fads, the newest cultural beliefs and practices is an incredibly dangerous practice for evangelicalism at large.
It seems to me you have minimally three camps as it pertains to these new changes in the culture and our reaction to them. First of all, you have those who truly believe we are anchored in Scripture alone as our authority. In other words, these are the John MacArthur’s of the world who outlast the changing fads, live through another iteration of adaptations, then outlast those, and live through another 30 years of changes, all while still maintaining fidelity to the biblical message. These are the group within what is broadly known as evangelicalism who do not change to meet the culture, but encounter the culture with the truth of the living God.
Secondly, there are those who see the new changes the world is making, take those fresh inventions, and clothe them in Christian language. There may be slight changes here and there, but these folks will claim to be holding to Scripture alone while really simply attempting to place what they believe to be biblical labels on top of the novelties of the world. Their approach is to take what the world says and Christianize it a bit to make it more palatable to the church. Whether this action is taken with positive or negative intentions depends on the person, but the end result is the same, a straying away from what Scripture purely says towards what the world wants.
Finally, we come to our third camp of individuals claiming to be evangelical who simply parrot whatever the world says without any changes. These are those headlong given to the idea that Christ accepts the world’s ideas. Therefore, they do not believe there is any reason to not hold to popular and culturally accepted ideas, because Jesus simply approves of what everyone believes to be true equally. I would have no criticisms of the first group who truly do seek to hold to the Scripture without being influenced in a negative way by the world. Yet, these last two camps of individuals do give us something to examine, so let’s dive in here together!
For What Reason According To What Standard?
Change, in and of itself, is neither truly good nor bad, it can be either depending on the situation. Whenever making changes, the foundational two questions should be to understand why they are taking place and according to what ultimate authority? Truly, I believe this point to be where many go awry in the evangelical world. Let me illustrate with an example. Suppose that a congregation known as Modern Church sees a new trend amongst the world to break out educational classes and vocational teams according to height. In order to make sure people continue with what they are used to, the leaders at Modern Church make the decision to align Sunday School classes according to the height of the individual and to remove everyone under five and a half feet out of the worship service for the taller folks.
The leaders at Modern Church decide to make the former high school basketball star Brother Tom the teacher of the numerically challenged class consisting of all those over seven-foot tall, word has it these poor fellows need taller tables in the future! Then, they assigned Sister Maria to teach the class of those under five feet, somehow she magically ended up training nearly all of the young children ten and below. And, the rest of the congregation was broken up into a few sections, all of equal height. Now, why did this particular change take place? It was because a few leaders in the church wanted to make people more at ease by aligning things according to the way they are typically done in the world. According to what standard was this change made? Well, we might say it was done according to the standard of the feelings of these men taking the action they thought would be best in this given scenario. They decided that Scripture doesn’t explicitly prohibit this action, and so there was no reason why they couldn’t take it.
Applying The Lesson of Modern Church
Now, if you take everything in the last paragraph and apply it to many of the modern-day church fads, we essentially have the reason many evangelicals run headlong after current ideas. These are individuals who often possess a real care and love for others wanting to help them. However, because they do not anchor their beliefs deeply in the Scripture, they can make decisions like segregating the church based on age . . . I mean height. And, I think this truly does take us back to the heart of the issue with evangelicals chasing fad after fad. Whether it be ideas not found in Scripture like age segregation, critical theory, metaverse church, online church, or countless other issues, the heart of chasing fads comes down to a lack of being anchored in Scripture.
My hunch here is that frequently this lack of depth in the Word stems from the fact we, in many ways, are a feelings-driven culture. Therefore, instead of relying upon truth to anchor our emotional feelings we allow how we feel to dictate what we believe to be true. Feelings can be good or bad, but they are a rollercoaster wreck when you are trying to ground your worldview and beliefs upon them. Even as evangelicals, we have to be careful to avoid this temptation. When we are not on guard, we will simply go by what we feel to be right and good for others instead of what God says. What we need to be doing is coming to the Scripture, submitting our emotions and feelings to it, then moving forward to live out what God has commanded. We want to bring our hearts in tune with the commandments of God by allowing His Word to change how we feel according to the truth.
Of course, there are major issues with other foundational authorities where individuals believe the opinion of so-called experts trumps what the Bible says. However, at the end of the day, the reason evangelicals chase fads comes down to a lack of trust in the sufficiency of Scripture. If we truly believed the Word of God was sufficient for us to know the will of God unto the glory of God, then we would not appeal to the world to supplement what we believe to be the Bible’s deficiencies. The issue is that because large swaths of evangelicalism are shaky at best in their understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture, they are prone to be led around by whatever carrot the world places before their eyes.
What we need to do positively is to seek to have everything in our life governed by what God has revealed in His Word. It is not up to us to decide what is best to do in the church, God has spoken on the subject authoritatively. We simply need to submit in humble obedience instead of jumping along to each and every new fad the world has to offer. This aspect allows us to truly demonstrate one of the most beautiful aspects of Christianity . . . unchangeable truth. Because God does not change, truth does not change, and so a biblical church is truly a timeless church in the sense of holding to that which is ancient. Yes, we may have new buildings and air conditioners, but the message is still the same as revealed in the Bible written roughly 2,000 years ago and longer. Because of that reality, we don’t need to chase every new idea on the block, because the God of infinite wisdom has already commanded us as to what we must do!