"My zeal has consumed me,
Because my adversaries have forgotten Your words."
Churches today exist in a culture of ethical relativism. The rapid moral decline of American society is entirely consistent with the erosion of Judeo-Christian values on which the country was founded. The only absolute tolerated by the culture today is that there are no absolutes. One's personal values tend to be acquired from the entertainment industry, truth is a matter of individual interpretation, and what is right is a matter of personal choice.
Josh McDowell and Norm Geisler clarify the problem in their book Love Is Always Right: A Defense of the One Moral Absolute:
"If you believe that the conscience of the Western world is still guided by objective truth, honesty, moral purity, and the Golden Rule, you need to take a close look at how the people around you are living. And if your Christian values have not been challenged or ridiculed as archaic or irrelevant by a neighbor, coworker, teacher, or student, then your lamp is under a basket or the people you interact with day by day are blind and deaf. "...About three decades ago, we transitioned into what the late Christian thinker Dr. Francis Schaeffer termed the 'post-Christian era....' But in the last decade of the twentieth century, we have reached a new low. American society has entered a period that may well be called the 'anti-Christian era.'"
(excerpts from pages 18-21)
If there are really no absolutes, then truth is relative and subject to interpretation by the individual. One's religious beliefs are self-designed and self-serving, customized to the perceived needs of the individual at any given point in time.
Christians are not immune from the influences of society. Being "in" the world but not "of" the world is a narrow road that cannot be safely traveled without clear directions. Through a hedonistic entertainment media, through a justice system dominated by personal rights, and through public education ruled by humanism and liberalism, children in particular are subject to and will continue to be influenced by the secular ideologies of the day.
Like the culture, Christians can be lured easily into the errors of Israel at the time of the Judges:
"In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes."
The context in Judges is one of civil law, but the principle remains the same. Without a source of absolute truth, every person—Christians not excepted—will believe and do what is right in his or her own eyes.
Evangelical Christian apologists are crying out for help from the local churches. One can hear over and over again the need to disciple believers, to teach the Bible, to teach sound doctrine, and to teach that the Word of God is the only absolute upon which spiritual truth can be based. It is also well documented that the average Christian is woefully ignorant, if not illiterate, concerning knowledge and the truth of the Bible.
The proclamation ministry of the church is another area where in many cases secular influences have prevailed. In an attempt to stay in touch with an anti-authoritarian culture, and through the influence of liberal biblical scholarship, many mainline denominations and churches have demoted the pre-eminence, authority and relevance of the Word of God. The Bible is sometimes employed only pragmatically and in no less capacity than spiritual "consultant."
At the other end of the spectrum, many evangelical churches have dug in their heels with "meaty, expositional teaching" of the Bible. In doing so, however, some have become so "meaty" as to fail to communicate effectively the big picture of what the Bible is all about, or to make God's Word applicable to the believer's life.
Adding to the confusion of ministry and teaching focus for churches today is the impact of the Church Growth Movement. Though some church plants have found these strategies successful, many well-intentioned pastors have been left confused and frustrated, especially those in smaller churches which are desperately in need of greater numbers. They have attempted to implement church growth principles, only to find themselves with little or no growth and a lot of division within the church. It is no wonder that over 1,400 pastors leave the ministry every month.
A clear and effective biblically based plan is necessary to provide all its members with a personal knowledge of God and a practical understanding of His Word. A comprehensive, church-wide ministry is needed that centers around the Word of God and is taught at all educational levels of the church on a repeating cycle. The basic model is taken from Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, under the leadership of Pastor Chuck Smith who, from the beginning, has taught through the Bible every couple of years.
It is felt, however, that this plan can be easily adopted to fit just about any church ministry, large or small. For this reason, Walk with the Word may be implemented by any church without prior permission. As God's Word is freely given to us, so Walk with the Word is freely given to others. For it is our earnest desire that every believer who seeks to worship God "in spirit and in truth" will be able to say earnestly from the heart…
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."