The Agenda Of The “Change Agents”?
by Lawson Mayo
There is a large, influential movement within the body of Christ to change
the structure of the church. Those within this movement are promoting a new
hermeneutic; they say that truth cannot be known. Furthermore, they claim that
the New Testament Church has not been restored; because of this, they are
calling for change.
Can truth be known? Is change wrong? Does the church need to be
restructured? These are questions that demand answers; answers that I’ve been
asked to supply in this lecture.
First, let me confirm, with Scripture, that truth can be known.. In John
8:32 we hear Christ say, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make
you free.” Jesus, Himself, is the source of the truth about which He speaks.
He is the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man cometh to the Father, but by Him
(John 14:6). For some, this is a narrow philosophy, but for the sound
believer, it is the source of eternal life.
There is no way to have a soul-saving relationship with God except through
Christ and His Word. If any man shall add to, or take from the Word, he shall
reap the consequence in the day of judgement (Revelation 22:18,19). Woe unto
the “agent” that would institute an unscriptural change within the church; his
name shall be stricken from the Book of Life.
It is my conviction that God knew what He wanted when He planned the
church. It is also my conviction that Jesus Christ was capable of setting in
order that which God planned. If this is not so, our faith is in vain.
In the words of a popular song: “The times, they are a changin’” (Bob
Dylan). Yes! The times, they are a changin’! To quote Dave Miller: ". .
.civilisation has been in a state of cultural flux for the last three decades.
From the Christian perspective, this disorientation has not been good. The
overall social shift has dramatically weakened [our] value system --
religiously, morally, and spiritually. The church has not eluded the clutches
of this social circumstance. The influence of these cultural currents is being
strongly felt. In fact, hurricane force winds of change are pounding down upon
the body of Christ. The instigators insist that change is absolutely essential
if the church is to remain ‘relevant’ to society and ‘appealing’ to human
culture." (Piloting the Strait)
The change agents (as they are called by those of us who wish to remain
doctrinally sound) would turn the church of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus
Christ, into nothing more than a secular body. For the sake of appeal, they
would have use compromise God’s Holy Word. In the guise of relevancy, they
would have us lose our identity. The “old paths” are too strait; the “old way”
is too narrow (Jeremiah 6:16).
Three of the better known spokesmen among the change agents are: Rubel
Shelly, Lynn Anderson, and Max Lucado. I tell you, brethren, beware of these
men and their writings. In the name of Christ, they are advocating
soul-threatening reforms and alterations in God’s most holy pattern.
At the 1996 Conference on Spiritual Renewal that was held in Florence,
Alabama, where Shelly participated with a group of religious leaders from a
large assortment of denominational and charismatic groups, he was introduced
as a “leader” in the “renewal movement” among churches of Christ. Such an
introduction speaks volumes regarding the “reforms” that Shelly would have us
adopt in the body of Christ.
Likewise, Anderson has been associated with many soul-threatening
innovations, seeking what he terms “a search of wonder”. Unfortunately, he has
influenced many Christians to join him in his irresistible, irreverent,
Lucado also exchanges pulpits with denominational preachers, encouraging
them in their error. After speaking for a Baptist church, in San Antonio,
Texas, Lucado offered the Lord’s invitation to the accompanying strains of the
This same Lucado, who serves as minister for the Oak Hills church of Christ
in San Antonio, Texas, hosted a “seminar” this past October, to prepare for
the South Texas Billy Graham Crusade that was to be held in April of this year
(1997). Since this “crusade” was sponsored by a broad cross-section of
denominational churches, it should have been of no relevance to the Lord’s
church; much less should “one of our ministers” serve as host for its
Unity in diversity: this is the plea that’s pulsating within the church
today. Unity in diversity? How can that be? “Can two walk together unless they
be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). But listen to Shelly, in his address before the
numbers that gathered for the Conference on Spiritual Renewal:
One of the things I think is wonderful and precious and dear to the heart
of God, about a conference like this is that it’s a conference that cuts
across the lines.
Across what lines, Shelly? The lines that God has erected to keep us
separated from the false religion of the world? Denominational barriers don’t
matter anymore; not in the minds of the change agents. Again, listen to
We do not have to lose our separate denominational identities, we do not
have to give up our particular heritages and histories, we do not have to give
up our distinctive practices with regard to our different organisational
structures, worship, and so on. I see no need for that.
See what I mean; denominational barriers don’t matter anymore -- at least,
not in the mind of the change agents. Denominational doctrines don’t matter
anymore. Denominational differences don’t matter anymore. According to the
change agents we can be united in our differences. Their cry is for unity in
Shelly is not alone in his philosophy. Influential men around the world are
waving the same philosophical flag. Listen to Bill Banowsky, former president
of Pepperdine University, as he speaks to students and faculty at Abilene
Christian University where he advocated inclusive fellowship with
denominationalism: “I started,” he said, “with the idea of an identifiably
exclusive church, but have grown into a concept of a universally inclusive
Listen to others: Harold Hazelip, president of David Lipscomb University;
Dr Jack Boyd, professor at Abilene Christian University; Glen Owen, associated
with the Herald of Truth; Mike Cope, co-editor of Wineskins (magazine of
liberal persuasion); and many others. They all herald the same devastating
message: unity in diversity; unity in diversity; unity in diversity. But I
tell you there can be no unity in diversity. There may be union in diversity,
but there cannot be unity. There may be union in error, but if there is, there
can be no unity in Christ.
Another area that the change agents have targeted is our manner of worship.
Before we examine the changes that are taking place in worship within the body
of Christ, let us briefly consider the purpose and pattern of worship that is
set forth in the Word.
Worship is to be adoration that is expressed in spirit and in truth (John
4:24). Collectively, we are to participate in the worship service; as priests,
we are to offer adoration to the Father. As set forth in the Scripture,
Christians are to meet around the Lord’s table on the first day of the week
for the distinct purpose of remembering the death, burial and resurrection of
our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:26-29). When we come together,
we sing (Ephesians 5:19), we pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and we preach (Acts
Where do we get our authority for such a pattern? Everything we do is done
for the sole purpose of pleasing God, as set forth in the New Testament. The
changes that are taking place in worship, however, are for the sole purpose of
the worshipper; i.e. to make the worshipper (not the one that is being
worshipped) feel better. For example: the addition of instrumental music;
humming and/or clapping; choirs, quartets and solos.
Such illicit changes have become increasingly common among our liberal
brethren. Sad to say, but such is taking place without so much as a turn of
the head or a blink of the eye. I tell you, my brethren, the church is under
siege from within. Our brotherhood is seeking to please itself rather than
Another addition that I’ve noticed in my travels is this: applause in our
assemblies. Applause after a baptism; applause after a point well made;
applause after an announcement, etc. In my mind, applause recognises the
“performer” and/or the “performance” and differs vastly from vocal affirmation
by saying “amen” when the truthfulness of God’s Word is being proclaimed.
Applause is irreverent and disruptive. It’s an action that is out of character
with the quite, reverent, respectful, worshipful atmosphere that God would
expect (1 Corinthians 14:4).
While on the subject of hands, let us consider the matter of “lifting up
holy hands” that some are now doing in prayer and worship. In aping this
Pentecostal practice, we fail to understand the difference in what is being
done today, and that which was done in ancient times. True: in God’s Word, we
find several prayer postures, one of which consists of arms outstretched and
elevated with palms up: the posture of request (e.g. 1 Kings 8:22; Ezra 9:5).
This posture was also used in antiquity to approach a king or a pagan deity.
Those who do this today, do so with palms down, arms swaying from side to side
(sometimes with just one arm raised), and they do it, not only during prayer,
but also during singing and preaching. It has become an outward expression of
feeling that is either added to or substituted for that which God has
Other changes in the worship service are these: drama to “enhance” the
preaching; observing the Lord’s supper on any day of the week; the use of
women in leadership roles (serving at the Lord’s table, reading Scripture,
directing prayer, leading singing, participating on committees, etc). While it
is true that in Christ, there is neither male nor female (that is, gender does
not hinder one from becoming a Christian), there is still ample evidence that
God has placed leadership roles in the hands of the men; not the women!
Another change that has taken place has to do with our preaching. In days
gone by, our preachers gave book, chapter and verse for everything they said.
Sermons were heavily sprinkled with Scripture. Quotations from God’s Word
flowed freely from the pulpit. But that has changed. It is not unusual, in our
age, to sit through an entire sermon, and not hear a single Scripture
Even our announcements have taken a new slant. Once, when visiting a
congregation in the States, in our travels, I shook my head in disbelief when
I heard this announcement: “Our youth devotional will be a softball game this
week.” Question: how can a softball game be a youth devotional? Somewhere
along the way, we missed the mark; we put the emphasis on the wrong syllable!
Somewhere along the way, we’ve managed to turn worship into play. How did this
If the Word of God contains the Gospel of Christ: which it does (1
Corinthians 15:1-3); if the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation: which
it is (Romans 1:16); it seems to me that we need to be preaching the Gospel of
Christ (Romans 10:13-17)! Not a social group! Not a self-satisfying gospel!
Not a people-pleasing gospel! Not a world-appealing gospel! Just the
soul-saving gospel! Nothing more; nothing less! In the words of Paul, “Though
we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel...let him be accursed”
(Galatians 1:8,9). If we seek to please men, we are not the servants of Christ
This brings me to the third area of change: the defending of the Truth. In
Jude, we are admonished to “earnestly contend for the faith” (vs.3). This is
the challenge that faithful Christians need to meet today! We need to stand
firm; we need to defend the cause of Christ against the slighting, the
ridiculing, and the belittling that comes from those who claimed, at one time,
to be numbered among us. They no longer stand with us; they’ve lost their
respect for God’s divine word.
Would some, who once named the name of Christ, now preach contrary to God’s
Word? Would they malign the faithful? Would they? Well...listen to the words
of Waylon Jennings whose parents are faithful members of the Body of Christ;
speaking of the church, he said: "They are self-righteous, narrow-minded, and
truly believe they are the only ones going to heaven. ‘If you don’t believe
the way I do,’ they say, ‘you are going straight to hellfire and damnation,
with a side order of brimstone’”. (Nashville Tennessean)
When asked if he thought he would make a lot of “fundamentalists” angry
with such a statement, the well known singer replied, “Well, I probably will,
but I don’t care.”
The very next day, the same paper (Nashville Tennessean) carried a letter
from Rubel Shelly in which he acknowledges that the church in days past might
have fit Waylon’s description, and expresses hope that “Church of Christ
parishioners” have grown beyond the view of being the only true Christians.
What impact do such outspoken comments, by such outspoken men, make on the
world? That we can’t know the truth. That truth is a relative matter. That the
Bible can’t be trusted; it is always changing; it is never stable. Such
comments negate the truth; they make it void and without form. They suggest
that Christians are narrow-minded, divided, contentious, legalistic,
Cultural, theological, political, and scientific currents within the world
form the root system of change within the church. “Do your own thing” has
become the motto of our age in both the world and the church. Alternatives to
God’s plan have been introduced. Rejection of Biblical traditional has
surfaced. The desire to adopt denominational trends and fellowship
denominational groups is taking its toll. Restructuring is taking place.
As Dave Miller points out in his book: the authority of elders, the extent
of fellowship, the purpose of baptism, what constitutes adultery, whether the
Genesis narrative may be considered a myth, how the Bible is interpreted and
whether or not it constitutes a pattern to which people must conform,
definitions of modesty...all of these things are being re-evaluated and
redefined by the change agents of our time. It’s almost as if they are seeing
how far they can go before God intervenes, and as long as God doesn’t
intervene, the changes are counted as good. In actuality, however, the changes
reflect the rebellious nature of a resistant people that have not recognised
the eternal consequence of their actions.
Furthermore, they circle the globe “to make one proselyte, and when he is
made, [they] make him twofold more the child of hell than [they]” (Matthew
23:15). The church in Australia is not immune to such. Not at all! Change,
rebellion, and resistance is creeping in. The destructive trends have already
taken hold. We have but to look at the liberal men that our Australian
brethren are bringing in from the States, to catch a glimpse of what is
happening right here, in our own country, under our own eyes.