Robert D. Decker is professor of New Testament and Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.

Observing the Trends:

The Rev. Louis M. Tamminga wrote an interesting article under this title in The Banner (January 5, 1987). Tamminga is director of the Christian Reformed Church’s Pastor-Church Relations Services. Some of the changes and trends Tamminga observes in the Christian Reformed Church are:

—A sophisticated communication system has revolutionized society and daily affects the lives of Christians everywhere. 

—Many evangelical churches have developed flamboyant worship styles. In spite of some justified criticism, they will prove increasingly engaging to Christian Reformed people. 

—Fear of being excluded from the economic cycle is very real among Christian Reformed people. 

—Divorce and family problems are becoming more prevalent in Christian Reformed circles. 

—A new generation is finding its own unique ownership of values and vision. Young people no longer continue in their parents’ church as a matter of course. The Christian Reformed Church can no longer take loyalty for granted. 

—The “baby boomers” are taking on and taking over leadership in local CRCs. Though “institution minded,” they are not firmly committed to the old order. They expect quality ministry from their leaders. 

—Increasingly, both husbands and wives are employed outside the home. This reduces volunteer service and leadership talent in CRC congregations. Pastors more readily seek professional assistance for their ministries. 

—The CRC membership is aging. Members have fewer children, and the average life span is lengthening. Senior CRC members are becoming more assertive . . .

—Local initiative in individual congregations is growing, while the need and desire to be an integral part of denominational programs is diminishing. This already affects the flow of resources toward denominational ministries . . .

—Vacant Christian Reformed churches tend to call younger ministers rather than older ones. Pastors under age forty receive about three times as many calls as pastors over age fifty. For a growing number of pastors, the length of their present charge is becoming problematic . . .

There may be more than one reason or a combination of reasons for these changes in the Christian Reformed Church. This is not for us to judge. Two questions of interest to us are: 1) What, if any, are the relationships between some of these changes? For example, is there a relationship between the fact that many more wives are employed outside the home and the fact that divorce and family problems are becoming more prevalent in the churches? 2) Are some, if not all, of these changes also occurring among Protestant Reformed congregations and people?

Empty Churches, Full Hospitals:

This, so Brother Andrew claims, is the result of liberal theology. Covenanter Witness (December, 1986) reports:

Liberal theology has “paved the way for empty churches and full hospitals,” Brother Andrew claimed during an international conference of Christian medical workers, held in Austria July 3-13. 

The Dutch-born founder of Open Doors and author of the best-selling book God’s Smuggler, made his scathing attack on liberal theology during the International Hospital Christian Fellowship (IHCF) Conference. 

He cited the situation in Holland where he said that last year there were some 20,000 cases of euthanasia and 50,000 abortions. 

“All of this is a result of man turning his back on God’s answer,” said Brother Andrew, who is also an International Coordinator of IHCF. “Liberal theology has paved the way for organized unbelief and the rejection of the divine commandments. The result is not only empty churches but full hospitals, crowded abortion clinics, and overcrowded psychiatric institutions.” 

He claimed that because of liberal theology, today much of the church has, “no influence on the quality of our lives.” 

The Dutchman told medical personnel that they had a unique opportunity to share the “Gospel of forgiveness” with patients and fellow workers. “One psychiatrist in Holland told me that if someone could convince his patients that their sins were forgiven then 50 percent could go home tomorrow,” he said. . .

Brother Andrew, we think, is right “on target.” When the church rejects the truth of God’s infallible Word and the means God has provided by which faith is nourished in the hearts of God’s people enabling them to “call upon his name and be saved,” viz., the preaching of the Word, it incurs the judgments of God and reaps a very bitter fruit! (Cf. Romans 10:13-17.) False doctrine yields ungodly living and ungodly living yields the effects of sin. The fact remains: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? . . . What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become the servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:16, 21-23).

Sexually Active Teenagers:

That sex among teenagers and pregnancy among teenagers are problems of tremendous proportions in America goes without saying. In response to the problems, sex-education courses are taught in many public schools. In some public high schools there are health clinics where teenagers can obtain contraceptives, pregnancy tests, and counseling. The Banner (December 29, 1986) in its “Worldwide” column carried a story on this subject:

It is said that in America alone are more than 11 million sexually active teenagers. More than a million teenagers become pregnant each year. But people are questioning whether sex-education programs or school-based health clinics are the answer. Washington Post columnist William Raspberry says, “Try this: a high school principal tells his assembled students that shoplifting is risky, both for its moral implications and because of the prospect of jail, and he wishes they wouldn’t do it. But if you think you might shoplift anyhow, we have a visiting team of experts in Room 301 who will tell you how to avoid getting caught.’ . . . When it comes to sex, the only acceptable instruction the adult can offer to adolescents is: ‘Don’t.'”

Sex education and school-based health clinics are not the answer to these problems. Parents must teach their children that God commands us to live chastely both within and outside of holy marriage. (Cf. The Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 41.) All of us are to avoid and detest promiscuity not merely because of the risk of contracting venereal disease or AIDS, not merely because of unwanted pregnancies, but because God says: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” This is what our children must be taught. Let us be aware too of the fact that Satan tempts our teenagers with the lusts of the flesh. Covenant parents ought frankly discuss these matters with their children and point them to the Christian walk of thankfulness so sharply delineated in God’s Law of Liberty. This is the liberty with which Christ has made His covenant children free!