Trueman: Why Churches And Institutions Go Bad

In my experience, churches, institutions and organizations do not go bad because of coups by liberals. They go bad because otherwise orthodox people sit on their hands – hands of whose cleanness they are always so very proud, yet hands which are clean only because others have dirtied theirs by taking the tough decisions and putting their careers and reputations on the line. The spineless orthodox sleep safe at night only because the very people they so often despise have first made the ecclesiastical and institutional streets safe for women and children.

Carl Trueman, “Discipline, Dirty Hands, and the Silent Abolition of Christianity.” (HT: Chad Vegas)

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  1. Churches, Institutions, and people go bad because of a failure in one or more of the following areas. The five areas are hierarchical and developmental, which is to say they go from 1.) to 2.), etc. and they are interrelated and dependent upon one another. No area can be neglected and no step can be skipped or left out. All of the questions must be answered according the the word of God and the biblical historic orthodox faith. They are 1.) Identity (Who are we, or who am I?), 2.) Vision (What is God calling us to be and do?), 3.) Strategy (How will we get to where God wants us to be and to do?), 4.) Action Plan(Specifically, how will be get the job done and keep it going), 5.) Reflection/Evaluation (How are we doing? What is working? What needs improvement? What is not working and needs to be discontinued?). Every success or lack thereof can be traced to one of these areas. Any successful church, institution, marriage or individual, etc. will only stay successful if these areas are tended to and failure is not far away if they are not. We neglect first principles and the clear guidance that God gives to us in His Word to our peril, and the peril of those around us.

  2. Dr. D. G. Hart has often mentioned this when talking about J. G. Machen… the moderates were the ones who did in Machen, not the liberals.

    Question for you, Dr. Clark: what can someone like me, who is just a layman in my Presbyterian church, do to speak up? Feel free not just to comment here on it, but to make a post – I’m sure I’m not the only one wondering.

    Thanks, and peace in Christ.

    • I suppose it depends on what it means to “speak up.” In Reformed churches we have a church order with procedures for complaints and appeals.

      The laity has played a powerful and important role in the life, assemblies, and courts of the church. I can think of two cases where it was not ministers but laity who complained to the churches about ministers or elders teaching the Federal Vision. Had those laity not taken the case to the churches perhaps nothing would have happened.

      Laity can speak up by becoming informed and speaking and listening to their elders and ministers about issues of concern. The laity have a right to expect their ministers and elders to adhere to the confessions to which we all subscribe. Those confessions are clear enough so it is in the interest of the laity to know the confessions and catechisms.

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