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Gauging Change

Is the United Pentecostal Church, International going to change?  This question is on the minds of a lot of people.  From the crosswinds of the cultural revolution to the contrary winds of emergent church issues, many are looking for the slightest indications of change, whether it’s for good or bad, right or left.  Some want us to change, but fear that we won’t.  Some are paranoid of change and think that we will.  Some don’t care because they plan to chart their own course anyway.  Whatever.  We need to know.

So, let’s ask the question.  Is the UPCI going to change?  I certainly hope so.  In fact, I pray so.  If we are trending towards cowardly, sycophantic adulation of the world, I hope we change.  If our feet are firmly planted on the proverbial slippery slope, I hope we change.  If we are losing the courage to preach a distinctive, doctrinal message in a world of compromise, I hope we change.  If we are growing tired of the faith of our fathers, I hope we change.

We would do well to heed the advice of President Calvin Coolidge of July 5, 1926, on the occasion of the one-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence:

“About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction cannot lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.”

Yes, I’m for change.  But, not everything labeled change qualifies to be so defined.  As Mr. Coolidge said, some ideas are not more modern, but more ancient than the Revolutionary fathers.  Reversion to worldliness is not progress but regress.  Embracing all the things from which Apostolic believers received their initial deliverance does not represent enlightenment, but rather a return to darkness.  Healthy change leads us forward.  Change, when it is misguided and unhealthy, takes us backwards.  It needs to be gauged.

A word to those who want us to “lighten up:” The motive for change in one area essentially shares the same motive for change in other areas.  Same tree, different branches.  And, the world that invites emulation in culture and lifestyle will withhold total affirmation until it sees change in all areas.  It will always say, “You’re doing good—as far as you’ve come.  Now, you need to change this, and that and that,” until all boundaries are erased.  It may begin with lifestyle, but it seldom stops there.  The oneness doctrine comes into play.  Insistence on baptism in Jesus’ Name begins to weaken.  Passion for speaking in tongues loses its ardor.  Spirituality becomes an issue.  Convictions become preferences, preferences become historical footnotes.  For some, even lines of basic morality get blurred.  Yes, the slope is much more slippery than anyone first judges it to be.

Gauging change is a function of direction and velocity.  Let us change.  Let us become more aggressive in our evangelism, more effective in our teaching, more anointed in our preaching, and more powerful in our praying.  Let us become more united in our objective of reaching the whole world with the whole gospel.  Let us become more generous in our giving, more enthusiastic in our worship, more determined in spiritual warfare and more committed to our holiness lifestyle. 

Let us change.  Fence-sitting has never served the church well.  Lukewarmness evokes the wrath of God, not His commendation.  Change means getting off the fence and moving in a positive direction.  Change means turning on the hot water.  Change takes courage and commitment.  Change abandons the comfortable, non-threatening position of men-pleasers and strides confidently in the direction of pleasing God. 

Is the United Pentecostal Church, International going to change?  I’m no prognosticator, but I can tell you my hopes and desires.  We must not change our substance, but we must change our intensity.  We must not change our doctrine, but we must change our devotion to it.  We must not change our position on holiness—both inward and outward—but we must become stronger in teaching and practicing it. 

I have often expounded on the cost of convictions.  Relatively speaking, the cost continues to rise.  In an absolute sense, however, the cost remains the same.  Across the generations, down through the centuries, in every culture, truth-buyers have always had to pay the ultimate price—everything.  Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”  Matthew 13:46.

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