|From the President….
The Theology of Change?
Two Ambassador graduates now serving in full-time evangelism recently attended a preacher’s fellowship at which a young preacher who had just graduated from college spoke to the gathering on "The Theology of Change." As my friends related this experience to me, a thought immediately came to mind. "The Theology of Change" is an oxymoron. Theology is the study of God. Malachi 3:6 states, "For I am the Lord, I change not;…." Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever."
I tell my preacher boys that whenever they are complimented, the commendation should go in one ear and out the other. If it lodges between, they are in trouble. However, I must admit there is one compliment that I do relish. After being in evangelism for more than forty-five years, scarcely a meeting goes by but what someone comes to me and says, "Brother Comfort, I thank God that you have not changed." If there is change it should be to strength and not to weakness.
I have been asked many, many times, "Why do preachers change?" I have thought much on this subject, and from my experience, I have observed six major reasons why preachers change. First of all, there is the matter of adopted convictions. Many times a person is reared in a Christian home, attends a Christian school and a Christian college, and hears convictions verbalized but never do they become his own. As long as Demas was around Paul, he conformed to Paul’s convictions, but his love for the world ultimately led him to forsake both Paul and the "convictions."
Secondly, there is the matter of pragmatism. Many young men graduate from college with a legitimate desire to be used of God. They read books, attend seminars, and become enamored with preachers who have built large ministries. These young men fall prey to the philosophy that if they have strict standards they will never achieve the "successful ministry." So in order to build a work of notoriety and achieve their "success" they abandon standards that one time they verbalized.
Then there is the matter of an extreme imbalance. Through the years I have observed many men who were extremely judgmental. Everyone had to cross their "t’s" and dot their "i’s" exactly right or be labeled as "new evangelicals." I have watched many of these men swing the pendulum and ultimately take a position one hundred eighty degrees the opposite of their original persuasion. The older I get the less judgmental I am. Paul cautions in I Corinthians 4:5, "Judge nothing before the time until the Lord come." No one has to stand before the judgment seat of Ron Comfort; they must stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is there that motives will be made manifest. It is there that we will be revealed as we really are.
Fourthly, I have seen preachers change when their children become teenagers. It is relatively easy to dictate to elementary children their standards of dress and conduct. However, that task becomes far more difficult when those same children become teens who live under the shadow of peer pressure. It is then that parents tire of the continual hassle of trying to get their children to observe the standards that were unquestioned just a few years before. It is then that parents begin to listen to the immature reasoning of their children in order to keep peace at home. No doubt it was far easier for Eli to get Hophni and Phinehas to comply as children. However, when they were older God brought judgment on Eli’s house because his sons "made themselves vile, and he restrained them not."
Several years ago I was with a young preacher in his early thirties who told me that he was preparing to write a book dealing with the home and child rearing. I counseled him that he would be wise to wait until his children were older and he had gained credibility evidenced in their character and godliness.
Another reason that change often occurs is when a leader inherits a position that he did nothing to earn. My advice to any preacher who wants his son to be his successor is that he let his son go out on his own for awhile and establish a ministry by which he can test his mettle. When a person inherits something that he did not earn, he will give it up just as easily. Men who have been in the ministry for years and the power of God has been evidenced on their lives have had to fight battles. A person’s character is revealed in how he responds to testings.
I perceive a basic insecurity among young men who inherit a position without having to pay a price somewhat akin to that which the predecessor paid. Many times that young man in his subconscious mind wonders, "Could I have accomplished this on my own?" Insecurity will on occasion create a desire to change that which is inherited to "personalize" the ministry. It is my personal feeling that a great mistake is made when we place a young man in a position of leadership that he has not earned.
Finally, I have seen men who have built their ministries on strong, Bible-based convictions come to the end of their ministry and like Hezekiah, they want peace in their generation not considering the generation to come. It is very easy for an older preacher to become battle-weary and to want to conclude his ministry in peace. One of the constant motivations of my ministry is, "It is not how I start the race that is important, but how I end the race." The reward is not reckoned until the race is run.
God help us as Christians to be able to say with the Apostle Paul, "I am now ready to be offered…..I have kept the faith…..I have finished my course…"