The World Leads, the Church Follows

One of the biggest problems we have today is worldliness in our churches:

Given all that Scripture has to say about the ungodly world around us, and how we must persistently and strenuously resist its siren calls, one has to marvel at all the Christians who nonetheless are fully at home in the world, who seem to get their marching orders from the world, and who have as their core values whatever the world at the moment is championing.

We see worldliness everywhere in our churches, and the incredibly sad reality is this: the thoughts, actions and beliefs of many who call themselves Christians today in the West are basically indistinguishable from those in the world. They appear to be one and the same in so many ways.

As mentioned, the Bible speaks so very often about the world and about worldliness, warning us to stay clear as we remain true to Christ and his Word. It should not be necessary for me to have to repeat these passages, but I guess I need to nonetheless. Here then are some of them:

2 Kings 17:15 They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, “Do not do as they do.”

Ezekiel 11:12 You have not followed my decrees or kept my laws but have conformed to the standards of the nations around you.

Ezekiel 20:32 You say, “We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone.”

John 15:18-9 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

John 17:15-18 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you

2 Timothy 4:10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.

1 Peter 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds, and glorify God in the day of visitation.

James 4:4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

I John 5:19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Revelation 18:4 “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”

Yet in spite of these passages – and many more like them – we seem to have one of the most worldly group of believers found in church history. So close to the world in emphasis, thought and deed are so many believers that no wonder so few pagans are dying to become Christians. Why should they?

When they see or hear nothing different in the churches than what they already know, why would they want to come to Christ? Why would they see the need for any sort of change? Anyway, the world does a much better job of being worldly than does the church, so why bother?

The sad truth is this: instead of leading the world, far too often the church just slavishly and uncritically follows the world. If the world does something, you can almost be assured that sooner or later the church will do it. If the world believes and promotes something, eventually the church will end up believing and promoting it.

As Francis Schaeffer once put it, “Tell me what the world is saying today, and I’ll tell you what the church will be saying in seven years.” Exactly. Let me give you just a few examples of this:

The world pushes the homosexual agenda, so the church slavishly follows suit.
The world pushes the abortion agenda, so the church slavishly follows suit.
The world pushes interfaith dialogue, so the church slavishly follows suit.
The world pushes the “tolerance” agenda, so the church slavishly follows suit.
The world pushes the climate alarmism agenda, so the church slavishly follows suit.
The world pushes the “look after No. 1” agenda, so the church slavishly follows suit.
The world pushes the lust for fame and fortune, so the church slavishly follows suit.
The world pushes entertainment and amusements, so the church slavishly follows suit.
The world pushes celebrities and marketing techniques, so the church slavishly follows suit.
The world pushes feelings and emotions while downplaying the mind, so the church slavishly follows suit.
The world pushes evolutionary humanism, so the church slavishly follows suit.
The world pushes the line that we are never to judge anything or anyone, so the church slavishly follows suit.

That list could keep on going. So just stop already! Get off the world’s lousy bandwagon and get back on to Christ and on to his Word. Start to live, think and act like a follower of Jesus Christ instead of a follower of the world. Choose you this day who you will serve!

All the great saints of God have known these truths, so let me conclude with a few quotes from them:

“When the church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“The church and the world have become so intertwined that it is hard to tell one from the other. The world has so affected the church’s moral standards that Christians say they believe in Christ and yet have never bothered to change their moral attitudes and standards at all.” A. W. Tozer

“God will not accept a divided heart. He must be absolute monarch. There is not room in your heart for two thrones. You cannot mix the worship of the true God with the worship of any other god more than you can mix oil and water. It cannot be done. There is not room for any other throne in the heart if Christ is there. If worldliness should come in, godliness would go out.” Dwight L. Moody

“I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world, is because the world has so much influence over the church.” Charles Spurgeon

“When the church and the world can jog comfortably along together, you can be sure something is wrong. The world has not compromised – its spirit is exactly the same as it ever was. If Christians were equally as faithful to the Lord, separated from the world, and living so that their lives were a reproof to all ungodliness, the world would hate them as much as it ever did. It is the church that has compromised, not the world.” Catherine Booth

“The true man of God is heartsick, grieved at the worldliness of the Church…grieved at the toleration of sin in the Church, grieved at the prayerlessness in the Church. He is disturbed that the corporate prayer of the Church no longer pulls down the strongholds of the devil.” Leonard Ravenhill

“People who claim to be Christians while their lives look no different from the rest of the world are clearly not Christians.” David Platt

“We do not want a church that will move with the world. We want a church that will move the world.” G. K. Chesterton

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12 Replies to “The World Leads, the Church Follows”

  1. Our boat should “float on water”, instead, we let the boat take water, & sink.
    Paraphrased from DL Moody.

  2. Excellent Bill! Unfortunately so true! I need to look at my own life and see how I am following the world…and ask God’s help to stop.

  3. Thank you Bill! Your list of “The World pushes…….” explains almost every problem the church faces today.
    In today’s Christian church, Paul’s Ephesian letter’s statement “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” has been replaced with your words “the church slavishly follows suit”.
    When the church joins the world rather than “wrestling” against it, it ceases being the church and is simply a part of “the world”.
    This is one of your most meaningful. Godspeed!

  4. Amen!

    Eph 4:14 so that we no longer may be infants, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, in the dishonesty of men, in cunning craftiness, to the wiles of deceit.

    The deceit of this world is great and, unfortunately, modern technology has only empowered it even more.

  5. Not to disregard the many strong Churches and Christian organisations upholding God’s Word across this nation, I’m sure there are many people across Australia praying for the Church to be ‘the light of the world’ and ‘the salt of the earth’ rather than covering over the lamp and losing it’s saltiness as it appears to be doing. In Paul’s day he would have written, sent someone or visited himself to teach, exhort or perhaps rebuke certain Churches. In Paul’s day they would have listened. I’m sure the current state of the Church in general is a burden on the hearts of many people. What can we do? How can we encourage the body of Christ to come together as one to uphold the teaching we have in the Word of God and to put Jesus before all else?

  6. Thank you Bill for your commentary. The late Scottish Evangelist Horatius Bonar (1808-1889) once declared “I looked for the church and found it in the world, and I looked for the world and found it in the church.” His words were prophetic then as they most certainly are today!

  7. Mr Moody is right while an emulsion will mix oil and water it is temporary soon the oil rises to the top. You can briefly mix the world and Christ, though I wouldn’t recommend it, but it won’t last soon enough the world will rise to the top.

    Mrs Booth’s quote reminds me of a joke I think about this old couple driving and the see a young couple with the woman curled up against the man driving and she asks “how come we don’t do that anymore??” To which he replies ” it wasn’t I who moved.” Made me think of the church and satan the church saying to satan “how is that we are able to walk through these scary woods side by side now when we started so far apart???” His reply would of course be “it wasn’t I who moved.”

  8. Unless the Holy Bible is taken to church, opened and read, how will even the so-called Christians know the truth in Gods Word?
    Go back to the Ten Commandments. Read, know, live the truth of only ten, then no need for the millions of other laws.
    We are to obey God rather than man. Look at the elders, leaders, preachers who are living a double standard life. It is the blind leading the blind.

  9. True Judith too often today the bible in the home is more like a Ming vase: out in a prominent place, shown off to everyone, but no one dares touch it! It is a sacred book after all. But when you (I am using the general you not the specific you) start treating it like that one has to ask if you have made a idol of the bible and are possibly worshipping it not God? I don’t think many Christians think about that. You can’t get the wisdom of God without reading his word. You can’t read the bible without opening it. You can’t open it without touching it.

    While yes good commentaries will greatly aid you in you understanding nothing replaces reading the actual text. Besides contrary to what I many say much of the bible IS easy to understand. Even in the KJV. (I am not a KJV only person but I do prefer it) (also I tend to stick to word for word) It may take a little more patience with the KJV with the older style English, thee and thou and so on, but you can understand it. I think so many have been convinced that you have to study a long time to understand the bible that many don’t try. You don’t have to be a theologian or a pastor God didn’t make his word only for the learned but for ALL!

  10. Motivational Preaching, glaring lights facing the congregation, all black inside, music that couldn’t be any louder the sound would make the world’s youth feel jealous.
    The youth are accepting the Dark Side without realising it.
    The Dark Side is being thrown at them, the top leaders encouraging darkness a little more day by day.
    The young love the loud music. In the natural it looks that there is no hope for the youth. And with the agro Hip Hop, what hope is there?

  11. We’re trying to outworld the world should we have everything the world has AND Christ so join us. but if we have everything they currently get in the world the ONLY difference if we have Christ they don’t see that as a big enough deal to change sides. We keep saying “if you like rock we can rock too. If you like heaven metal we can metal too. you wanna rap we can rap too we can get down and do da gangsta thing with a christian veneer.”

    what we are really saying is we can be more satanlike than satan and still be a holy people unto God. sorry it doesn’t work like that! Just as Israel was to be separate from the world surrounding it so too are we we are not to imitate the world to somehow win over the world. some might think ‘once we get them in the pews we can hit em with the full gospel’ but it never works like that either you get too afraid they will leave that you never give them the gospel or you hit em with the full gospel and the hit the front doors.

    the real sad thing is while so many young people rail against the old hymns I bet most haven’t even hear them or at least not many of them. so many young people today just parrot what they have been taught to think and can’t form thoughts of their own. progressive education at it’s finest! so many have no idea why they are against something or why they think something is bad only that they were told it is and they that were told to believe the people telling them certain things were bad. (they were especially told NOT to believe their ‘backwards’ parents ESPECIALLY the christian ones) They have become a generation of what is termed “useful idiots”. they do whatever they have been taught, only trust those who taught them and who think and speak like those who taught them and obey any command those people give them. They are perfect soldiers of the revolution of evil: low intelligence, unable to think for themselves, and whole given over to whatever cause you direct them to.

    We can NOT dumb down the faith to that level to increase our numbers. IF we do it isn’t christianity any more. The road that leads to salvation is narrow and the gate is straight and few there be that find it. we can’t widen that road and gate simply to pad our numbers. (I don’t think it is just a numbers thing more people means more money in the collection plate and maybe building improvements and a bigger salary. pastors too have to be on the look out not to fall victim to mammon) The wide road leads to hell if people insist on being on it we can’t widen our road to accommodate them either they chance to come on to the narrow road or they don’t and end up in hell but our road stays the same. God’s road doesn’t need an infrastructure project done on it.

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