On Crosswalk.com in June of 2023, an article appeared entitled “5 Signs Your Church Might Be Heading Toward Progressive Christianity.”
Below are the main points from Crosswalk’s piece:
- There is a lowered view of the Bible.
- Feelings are emphasized over facts.
- Essential Christian doctrines are open for re-interpretation.
- Historic items are redefined.
- The heart of the gospel message shifts from sin and redemption to social justice.
I would say that if all these things are true of your church, it has arrived at the point of “progressive Christianity.” It’s either already a “woke” church or well on its way to it.
The article in Crosswalk inspired me to put together a list of signs that indicate something might be amiss at your church.
- There’s a Lack of Respect for the Words of Scripture
The “lowered view of the Bible” mentioned in Crosswalk’s list most often begins with the spiritualizing of its words in regard to biblical prophecy. By this, I mean that many pastors and teachers today retrofit God’s promises to Israel so that they apply to the church, albeit spiritually. This disregard for the intent of the author often has severe negative repercussions for other portions of Scripture.
For example, if one can assign different meanings to John’s written record concerning what he saw and heard concerning the future (the book of Revelation), it opens up other passages in God’s Word, such as those that forbid homosexuality, to continued retrofitting in order to make its words align with secular human wisdom.
- Attendance Numbers Trump Teaching the Whole Counsel of God
If your pastor avoids mentioning the truths of Jesus’ appearing for His church, the Rapture, lest it upset a few people and they leave, something is amiss at your church.
Churches primarily dedicated to putting people in the chairs often use the word “tertiary” to describe their beliefs regarding future things. This conveys that message one’s view of future things is of lesser importance than the essential doctrines of the faith and should not be a dividing factor in the congregation.
However, in my experience, the use of the word “tertiary” means that the church accepts all views except that of Jesus’ appearing before the Tribulation starts and His thousand-year rule over the nations. Those holding these views are often silenced in “tertiary”-minded places of worship and told that their beliefs are not acceptable. For us, we sense that a “Not Welcome Here” sign hangs over the door.
Despite their claim of avoiding disunity, the leaders of such churches divide the body of Christ over the matter of future things by denying many saints a place where they feel at home because of their hope in Jesus’ imminent appearing.
- The Preaching Fails to Address What’s Really Happening in Our World
Because of its amillennial beliefs (the denial of Israel’s restoration and Jesus’ thousand-year reign), the preaching at many churches lacks relevance to what its members read in their newsfeeds or see in the world around them.
This is especially true in regard to the war in the Middle East. Since many pastors today regard Israel’s miraculous rebirth as a fluke, they see Israel’s war as just another conflict and, worse yet, fail to defend Israel’s right to the Land from the pulpit. They fail to recognize Satan’s ongoing opposition to Israel and how that contributes to not only the war but also to the demonstrations on the streets of major cities around the world in support of Hamas.
Today, more than at any time since Pentecost, believers urgently need to hear how biblical prophecy speaks to the wickedness, lawlessness, and violence of our world. Preaching that suggests Jesus is already reigning over the nations not only contradicts God’s Word but gives those in the pews a false sense of security regarding current events and diverts their attention away from the comfort found in the “blessed hope” of the Gospel.
- The Elders Rule Rather than Shepherd the Flock
I agree that elder leadership in the church has biblical roots. Today, however, the elders sometimes rule rather than shepherd the flock. They ignore the Lord’s admonition to not “lord it over” those He intends for them to serve (see Mark 10:42-46).
Many churches emphasize the biblical qualifications for its overseers but ignore the words of 1 Peter 5:1-8, which emphasize humility for those who lead. If key decisions at your church are made without any input from the members whatsoever, it’s a sure sign something’s greatly amiss and that the elders rule rather than inspire the type of body life described in Romans 12:3-8.
I wrote a post about this last summer entitled Silencing the Remnant Church, where I go into more detail concerning this matter.
- They Preach Grace to the Lost, But the Law to the Saints
What makes life all the more challenging for those of us seeking to find a church where we feel welcome with our beliefs regarding the future is this: several churches that faithfully adhere to what we believe miss the mark when it comes to the Gospel. Its pastors preach grace to the lost but place the demands of the Law upon believers by saying that such obedience precedes blessings in the Christian walk.
Of course, preaching through a book of the Bible may lead to addressing sins. However, teaching conformity to a standard apart from who we are in Christ and the Spirit’s work inside us sorely misses the mark and is a sign that something’s amiss at your church.
Ephesians 1:3-14 makes it clear that we begin our walk with the Lord from the place of Him showering abundant blessings upon us. His blessings and unfailing love inspire us to greater obedience. Obeying to receive blessings negates such motivation.
- They Apply Inconsistent Outcomes for Israel and the Church, Further Blurring the Distinction Between the Two
When I was in seminary, the title of my master’s thesis was: Roman Catholic Justification in the Light of Scripture. Writing this led to a deeper realization of the wonders of God’s great mercy and love toward us, which has increased my understanding of the Gospel in the many years since then. What might surprise you is that my study on this topic contributed to my firm convictions regarding God’s promise to restore a glorious kingdom for Israel.
Lest you think I’m crazy, or perhaps more so, let me explain.
In Romans 8:28-38, the apostle tells us that nothing at all can change our status as justified saints or alter God’s plans to bring us to glory. Absolutely nothing. We are forever free from condemnation (8:1) regardless of our behavior or what happens to us after God’s pronouncement of righteousness upon us. God will most certainly glorify all those that He justifies; He will not fail in this regard.
At some point during the dark ages, Roman Catholic theologians moved God’s justification of believers from the moment of saving faith to the end of their lives. I don’t have any definitive insights into their motives, but two things stand out in my mind regarding their decision:
- They correctly recognized that God’s justification of the sinner was final and could never be overturned regardless of behavior.
- Moving justification to the end of life adds great uncertainty to the outcome of one’s faith by making the receipt of eternal life determined by good behavior. Did this not also give the church greater control over the life of the parishioners?
Paul’s message in Romans chapters 9-11 concerning the future repentance and restoration of Israel illustrates our secure standing before God as justified saints (as the apostle reveals for us in chapters 5-8). Books could be written on the truths that come from chapters 9-11, but what I am emphasizing here is how the certainty of Israel’s future restoration as a nation demonstrates the truths pertaining to our unalterable position before God as righteous and holy saints.
In Romans 9-11, Paul defends his assertion of our total security in Jesus by pointing to God’s preservation of the Jewish nation. Israel’s repeated disobedience, which resulted in numerous judgments upon the nation, did not deter His determination to bless His people in the end. The Lord will surely accomplish His eternal purposes for the nation just as He will for us.
From other passages, we learn that God will bring a remnant of His people to repentance at the end of the Tribulation and bless them with a glorious kingdom (Zechariah 12:10-13:1, 14:8-21; Matthew 23:37-39).
God’s ultimate plans for His people Israel, and for us, cannot change. The Lord will fulfill His stated purposes for both. It’s inconsistent to say God will preserve His saints without saying the same about the future of Israel as a nation.
This does not mean, as some today errantly claim, that every Israelite will obtain eternal life regardless of what they believe. What it does signify, however, is that as Romans 11:29 puts it, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” For Israel, these words signify that God will surely keep His promises to them regarding their glorious future reception of a kingdom.
For us, it means that absolutely nothing can change our status as New Testament saints. We are eternally secure as justified saints and thus heirs to the kingdom (Ephesians 1:11-14; 1 Corinthians 15:50-54).
As a former pastor, I grieve because of what’s happening in many churches. The silence of shepherds keeps many saints in the dark regarding what’s behind world events and diverts their attention to temporal things away from their glorious “blessed hope” in Jesus’ appearing. Such leaders deny the saints the comfort that the Lord provides them in Scripture concerning what lies ahead for them.
I provide a detailed defense of the Premillennial and Pretribulation viewpoint in: The Triumph of the Redeemed-An Eternal Perspective that Calms Our Fears in Perilous Times.
Note: Please consider signing up for my newsletter on the home page of my website at https://www.jonathanbrentner.com/. Thanks!
 Alise Childers, “5 Signs Your Church Might Be Heading Toward Progressive Christianity.” June 30, 2023, at: https://www.crosswalk.com/slideshows/5-signs-your-church-might-be-heading-toward-progressive-christianity.html