Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Jude 21-23.
One of the most subtle areas of compromise today seems to be in the field of evangelism and missions. Missionaries have often led the church in such things as discarding the Christian woman's veiling and ignoring the literal observance of some of the other ordinances, in laying aside distinctive separation attire, in the wearing of the wedding ring, in interdenominational and ecumenical involvements, (which usually, if not always, results in a "watering down" and then in a giving up of biblical conviction and practices), etc., etc.
But it ought not, and need not, be so. Neither should this situation be considered as an indictment against evangelism. It should, however, serve as a solemn warning of the dangers of compromise and world accommodation that so often accompanies evangelism and missions.
In his diligent consideration of what aspect of the common salvation to write about, Jude was led to appeal for an earnest contention "for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" and to warn of the possibility tragedy of departing from the faith. As examples of apostasy he lists the one time pure but now fallen angels, the once saved and "afterwards destroyed" Israelites, etc.
In this context it should not be at all surprising that the Holy Spirit would see fit to throw out a warning that in our interest to save sinners, and our contact with them, we do not lose our abhorrence for their sinful appearance (garments spotted by flesh) and practices.
A missing note in the how of evangelism of our day is an emphasis on the witness being a witness by keeping himself uninfluenced and unspotted from the world about him.
“Probe 72," the All-Mennonite consultation on Evangelism held in Minneapolis April 12-16 is a striking illustration of this assertion. From reports of observers "The impact of Hollywood and the Broadway complex" has led Mennonites interested in today's evangelistic emphasis to uncritically adopt "the modes and idioms of contemporary Christianity in America, borrowed from the theater and modern media."
From the pictures of the conference appearing in the Mennonite Weekly Review, women young and old, were unveiled and shorn– most of them appeared in maxi-skirts or mini-skirts and men appeared on the stage in hippy style or fashionable attire. In general there seemed to have been a full conformity to the world in an area that the Bible warns against from cover to cover. And Jude tells us that in our compassion for the lost and our zeal for evangelism we should (as one modern version it) "hate their very clothes, stained by sinful lusts."
The imbibing of the world's sacrilegious and hilarious practices was also in evidenced in "Probe 72" in such activities as the mock church trial," the mass participation in the “Jesus yell," the mock interruption during gospel message and laughter and clapping derogatory remarks about plainness and the "little white prayer caps."
Regardless of the good motives back of any favorable aspect there may have been in the Probe 72 Conference this writer is of the conviction that the process of world accommodation was speeded on its way and that thousands of drifting Mennonites were deceived to believing that we can have a scriptural program that calls people out of the world and an unscriptural practice that lets them live in the world. The two are incompatible and impossible.
Another missing note in today's Mennonitism is the call to repentance for unscriptural practices and procedures. In our Lord's diagnosis of the churches of Revelation, even though He recognized some good in many of the churches, for the objectionable features that existed He demanded, “Repent; or else..." the ultimatum warning that if the corrections were not forth coming He would extinguish their light (Ephesus or fight against them (Pergamus) or spew them out of His mouth (Laodicea).
In evangelism let's keep ourselves in the love of God by keeping ourselves untainted by the world lest we find ourselves going, going, going and simply going to become a part of the people we go to.
Aaron M. Shank