Imagine, for a moment, that you are part of an organization or movement whose vision statement and intention you resonate with very strongly. Imagine also that you are a part of this with others who are likeminded. Isn't it great? Now that you have this in your mind, I have a question for you to ponder:
How do you know that being a part of this is good?
In our world of insanity, we have come to define that that which is popular is right, and that which is common is good. If something or someone is well accepted then it must be the proper response to admire or even respect such. And disagreeing with someone or something that is famous or popular is a very risky move indeed.
"But I've overturned a new leaf!" You say, "I stand up for the bullied, and the underdog; I appreciate niche art and savor the glory that is my snowflake-like fellow man, fingerprints and all." I've got news for you. It is also popular (granted, to a different group of people) to like and support those things that aren't popular. The "new leaf" you've turned over is just a different light on the same leaf that mankind has been revelling in for millennia:
"As the masses go, so I go."
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.
How are we to know if the building project was right or good? If there was a newspaper in that day, it would be rife with observations of how well everyone was working on the tower together, how much everyone was getting along, even descriptions of how much was being accomplished! That's a good thing, right? Right? After all, the goal for them was to build a tower, and they were shimmering examples of success! If you weren't a part of what they were doing, you were missing out.
Is knowing what is right and good really a question of agreement between all parties involved? Milestones achieved? Unity of vision? Charismatic leaders?
Where does God fit into this determination?
Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.” So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
God had already made it clear to the people what their job was: they were to worship Him and fill the Earth. Instead of that, the people chose self-exaltation and staying where they were.
The sad part of this story of humanity is not so much that this is how the world is, but that the church follows close on its heels. We have been given the gospel and a mission to preach it to a dying world, but so many find that the gospel is not popular in the world and it is quickly pushed aside for less confrontational messages.
How "church" is done begins to reflect this. Rather than the gospel being fully present in the life of the church, there is an emphasis on validating people in their sin, encouraging them with false hopes of God's love and approval. Rather than evangelism unto salvation, there is a focus on community outreach that has everything to do with 'getting them to come to our church.' Anything to swell our numbers, our presence, our selves.
How do we protect our churches from spoiling the gospel with a rotting message that tickles the ears of dead men? How do we know what we are doing is good? Ultimately it is a question of what authority we are appealing to.
Everyone has an authority, who is yours?