Reform in the local church will not come by merely changing, adding or deleting church programs or rebuilding the church around the nuclear family.
Genuine reform comes first from identifying the real problem according to Scripture which is man’s idolatrous, self-glorifying heart (see Gen. 6:5; Isa. 29:13; Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28; 15:18-20). Genuine reform also comes from identifying the real solution to that problem according to Scripture which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:15-16, Rom. 6-8; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; 2 Cor. 3:18, Gal. 3:1-3; Col. 2:6-7, 20-23).
Before you yawn in agreement, consider what Scripture means when it says that the Gospel is the solution to our heart problem.
In Romans 1:16, Paul says that, “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe”. When Paul uses the word, “salvation” he is talking about the whole and complete redemption process. In other words, the Gospel is not just the power for our justification (what gives us to saving faith), but also the power for our sanctification (our growth in that faith which is to become more conformed to the glory-image of God in Jesus Christ) and our glorification (our final perfection in God’s glory image achieved when we get to heaven).
Very tragically, the Gospel has been reduced to a little piece of paper that we give unbelieving strangers, while we are oblivious to the fact (if we were ever taught the fact to begin with) that the Gospel is also the way we grow as Christians.
Yes, the good news is that we are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, but the even better news is that we are also sanctified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, too.
Seeking to grow without the Gospel is as certifiably crazy as me getting into my car and expecting to drive somewhere without any gas in the gas tank. It makes no difference if my car is a Porshe or a Yugo. If I have no gas, I go nowhere.
In the same way, no amount of changing, adding, or deleting church programs or changing what we do in the home—biblically-based though it may be—can serve as a substitute for the regular, daily application of the Gospel message to our hearts.
So, while changes may look good (at least for a while) apart from the gospel they are a mirage. They are an appearance of holiness that is void of the transformational power they claim to provide.
This is why Jesus and Paul soundly condemned the religious leaders for their prideful, relentless pursuit of holiness by outward, self- transformation, rather than by God’s ordained means, heart-level, or inside-out transformation—in the Christian—which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.