Evangelical churches, fundamentalist churches, Baptist churches, and independent Bible-believing churches are different than what they were fifty years ago. I've watched them change. If your church and another church are the same, and then one of them changes, that change now distinguishes your church from that other church. You didn't choose to distinguish yourself from that church, but you're still distinguished. You're not different because you changed. You're different because the other church did. Someone might say that you are trying to be different. You're different, but not because you're trying to be.
I know that our church has changed too. Every church should change. True churches are made up of saved people (position), who are also being saved (process), which is sanctification. Sanctification is change. The people in our church the longest, who could give good testimony of what has happened in our church, I believe would say that it has changed because of the effect of the Word of God over 25 years. A church should be ready to submit to the Bible as it learns God's Word together. I've changed as the leader of our church and then our church has changed too. My thinking, beliefs, and practices are closer than ever to what the Bible teaches. I'm not saying that I haven't sinned or made mistakes, but my positions have been honed and perfected, so I've grown.
When I say our church has changed, I'm not saying that our church has taken on some new fad. I mean that we have become more precise to and with scripture. I've learned in certain instances what the biblical and historic position is. In certain instances, we've just become better prepared to defend what we already believe. However, what has distinguished our church more than anything is how everything else and many others have changed. The areas where we differ from and concern other churches and folks outside of our church are those where everyone was taking our position at one time, but now have moved from that position. We didn't move on those areas. The world and then churches have moved from us. Now they would treat us like we're strange.
What I'm describing above is bound to happen. Nations rise and fall. They fall because they turn from God. That turning occurs gradually over time. Things rarely get better. What I'm reporting here is what it looks like in the Bible. People really should suspect it. Things will get worse before they will get better.
Some people act like our church, and those like us, somehow major on issues with which we are different than them -- that this is what we preach about all the time. I repeat, the areas with which we differ, are our major focus. There is a reason why these are the distinguishing issues: they are not popular. They are the very doctrines and practices that rub against the world system the most. In Corinth, bodily resurrection was a controversy. You were crazy there and then if you believed that you would get a new body. For that reason, bodily resurrection distinguished that church. Bodily resurrection isn't the issue in the United States, but a list has developed as the U.S. has ejected Christian values among other reasons. What is this list?
The list isn't a list that our church has chosen. We haven't concocted hot buttons to make us stick out. These are areas that churches have left behind, and the churches that have kept them are often treated with disdain by them. What are they? Not in any particular order --
Dress -- Here is modesty like it was for all the rest of Christian history. We're actually not as good, but far better than 95% plus. Here is gender distinction. There were items that pertained only to the man and only to the woman, symbols of male headship and female submission. The crowd melts almost as fast as they did at the feeding of the 5,000 if you bring this up.
Music -- A Christian worldview requires objective beauty. There is music that reflects the nature of God. Music is not amoral. Certain music is profane and worldly and can't be used in worship. Few take this position any more. Almost everyone rejected Christian rock to begin. Now only Christians say music amoral. We practice the historic regulative principle of worship.
Separation -- This is an exegetical issue, not applicational, but churches don't practice biblical separation when this characterized New Testament churches through history.
Pointed Application of Scripture in the Preaching -- Many churches leave the applications ambiguous today.
Preservation of Scripture -- Some call this the version issue, or extreme onlyism. No. This is believing what God said He would do.
Evangelism -- We preach the gospel to every creature. I don't run into people who do that. When people know we do, they run from us. People want an easier way or they won't join.
Church Discipline -- This has made a come back in some circles. We take it seriously.
Biblical Church Growth -- We follow the biblical pattern and strategy. There are many inventions and new measures for this everywhere to which churches bow.
Male Headship -- The man is the head of the home. He's the breadwinner. He makes the decisions. Sometimes the word complimentarianism is used. The men make the decisions of our church. This is controversial.
There are some other ways we are distinguished from others. We do one on one discipleship. We encourage our people not to go to the movie theater and movies are not something you'll hear discussed at our church very much or at all. We believe the evangelist is the person who evangelizes an area with the prospects of starting a church, not an itinerant preacher. We practice courtship and not dating. We believe churches send missionaries. We believe scripture teaches corporeal punishment for child training. We teach that someone must believe in the Lordship of Christ to be saved. We don't believe in extra-scriptural revelation of any kind. There are others.
These distinguish our church. Not the Trinity, even though we believe that. Not salvation by grace alone, even though we talk more about that than any of them. Not even expositional preaching, which we do. I've preached through every verse of the New Testament. We don't talk about the above list of things at our church very much, but they are still the types of things people notice when they decide not to join. A very, very few join because of them. Those people make these a big deal. If we dropped even half of them, we'd be maybe five, ten, twenty times bigger than we are. We didn't make up this list, but it still exists.