Is the Church to be a Chameleon?

There is much being written today concerning church growth, and we would be wise to heed to some of it. For example, we cannot expect poor preaching, poor singing and an unfriendly atmosphere to produce either spiritual or numerical growth. Common sense should tell us this.
There are those however, who would urge us to take extreme measures to reach the lost. They would treat the Gospel Meeting like a presidential campaign. In such campaigns producing an “image” of the candidate by showing him kissing babies, waving a flag, or having a picnic with his family is more important than discussing the issues of the day. This is because people vote on “images,” not on issues. The “Selling of a President” requires the best publicity and advertising professionals and techniques that money can buy. Christians are now using these techniques in the “Selling of the Church.” Avoid the issues, but create an “image” of the church which the unsaved world can freely identify with. A clear example of this would be Robert Schuler’s “Crystal Cathedral.”
In order to create this image we are told that we must be willing to “become all things to all men.” This includes giving them the music they like, or a program that “excites” them. If they do not like to sing, then we don’t sing. If they are used to watching TV and being amused, then we amuse them. If they are offended by Biblical words like, sin, Hell, repentance, and judgment, then we avoid these terms. If they are offended by head coverings, then we don’t wear them. Keep everything “upbeat” and “positive” in order to produce an “image” that the unsaved world will buy. In other words the church must be a chameleon. (A chameleon is a small lizard that changes its color to match its surroundings.)
In order to have people stay and for the church to grow numerically we are told that we must provide a place where they are comfortable. We must be willing to “adapt to them.” I can’t help but wonder if we are deceiving ourselves with this “philosophy of ministry.” Is it the unsaved that we want to be comfortable, or is it ourselves? If they are comfortable, then we are comfortable as well! If the world is happy in the church then the church avoids the offense of the cross. We avoid all uncomfortable confrontation, and thus we are comfortable.
Brother Caldwell wrote concerning 1 Cor. 1:26 (“not many wise…”), “Satan’s aim has been to get ‘Christianity,’ as it is called, allied with wisdom, philosophy, and science of the world; allied with the state and the crown; thus to strip it of its Christ-like garb of lowliness, and give it a standing and a respectability among men. In short, to lift off the reproach of the cross from the followers of Christ. But it cannot be. It is Satan’s plan to remove the cross from the disciple by beguiling the disciple from Christ.”
I wonder if this is why Christianity has turned to promoting itself through “superstars” from either the world of sports or Hollywood. The world isn’t going to belittle us for standing next to a “superstar” who they themselves idolize, but when we identify ourselves with Christ that’s a different story.
The basis for thinking that the church should be a chameleon and take on the characteristics of the surrounding world is based on Paul’s comments in 1 Cor. 9: 22 where he states, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Let’s look at this portion of Scripture more closely.
First, let’s consider the surrounding text. In chapter eight Paul spoke of the misuse of liberty. (1 Cor. 8:9) If a weaker brother has a conscience against eating meat which was offered to idols, it would be a misuse of one’s liberty to eat such meat in front of him, and thereby cause him to eat and to sin against his conscience. One should restrict or forgo the use of his liberty so as not to cause another to stumble. The lesson for us is that we too should be alert enough and wise enough to restrict or forego the use of our liberty if we knew it would cause another to sin against his conscience.
Paul did not flaunt his authority, or abuse his liberty as an Apostle of Jesus Christ. Mistaking this for a lack of authority, false teachers at Corinth raised a question regarding his apostleship. Paul begins chapter 9 by defending the fact that he was an Apostle, and as such he too had rights. (9:1-6) One of these rights was that he had a right to live from the Gospel (9:14). However, he goes on to say that he did not exercise this right because he wanted to be free of any obligation to them. He wanted to be able to declare the Gospel freely and without restrictions, and thus in his wisdom he took nothing from those to whom he was preaching it. (3 John 7) Paul received support from the Lord’s people (Phil. 1:5), but he had no desire to “charge” the unsaved world (9:18), although in principle he had the right to receive material things for having sown that which was spiritual. (9:11)  Paul did not exercise his rights. He wisely did not exercise the freedom that was rightly his. By so doing he was free of any obligation to the world, and could preach the Gospel without restraint.
However, being free from any obligation to men, he did not live to himself. He had made himself a servant to all that he might win them to Christ. (9:19) He chose to give up his rights due to his love for his Master and for others. (Ex. 21:1-6)
As a servant to all men Paul states, “to the Jews I became a Jew,” and “to those who are without the law, as without the law.” As a missionary taking the Gospel to different types of people he was wise enough to, in the words of one brother, “adapt himself to the religious capacity and to the modes of thought belonging to the one and to the other, in order to gain access for the truth into their minds; and he did the same in his manner of conduct among them.” However, this same writer adds, “Observe this was in his service; it was not accommodating himself to the world.” We see this principle applied today when a missionary eats the food of a native, or dresses in clothing like that of the people among whom he is laboring.
However, at no time does the missionary become “worldly” to reach the world! Being “all things to all men” can not be interpreted as, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Reaching the minds of the lost with the Gospel is certainly not the same as satisfying the desires of their flesh. Wisely Paul did forgo the exercise of his liberty and did adapt his message to different audiences in order to reach them with Gospel, but he never “entertained” them! Paul is certainly not telling us he acted like the world in order to win them. He did not survey the unsaved world to see what they would like the church to produce for them.  Nor is he instructing the church that in its collective meetings it must adapt to the world’s standards to win them.  
The context is one in which Paul, as an individual, restricted his liberty, not one in which he simply conformed to his surroundings. To take this text and apply it to the local church, and suggest that the church must be a chameleon and adapt its services to the world around it is a gross misapplication. For if this were true the local church would be like a yoyo trying to satisfy the great variety of tastes of those who come through its doors.
The point of the passage is that we, as individuals, need to be wise in the exercise of our liberties, both with the saints, and with the lost. There are times when we will need to restrict or forgo the use of our liberties. On one hand so as not to cause a weaker brother to sin against his conscience, and on the other hand to give us an opportunity to win the lost. At no time is it teaching us that we must make the world comfortable in the church, and to produce a program that is appealing to the unsaved world.
 If the method used to reach the lost would stumble or starve them after they are saved, then that method is worldly and ought to be abandoned. Remember too, “what you win them with, is what you will keep them with.” If you win the lost by music then you must give them more music to keep them. If you win them with drama, then most likely you will need to give them more drama to keep them. If you win them through preaching Christ, then they will want more of Him.
Assemblies that are producing programs that satisfy the desires of the unsaved world are no different than the advertising world when it surveys the market to see what people like, and then produces it for them. The meeting of the assembly is not a production, like the local theater. Neither is it a product that we promote. It is a place where we should enthusiastically preach Christ.
Can you envision the early church trying to promote an assembly that was comfortable for those around it? Can you see the saints in the catacombs laying out a strategy for promoting the assembly? Can you see them polling the citizens of Rome as to what they would like to see in the church? Of course not, because there was a definite distinction between the church and the world, and yet the church grew! (Acts 5:13-14)
Applying this world’s promotion techniques to the local assembly only makes it more like the world. When we format the assembly’s meetings around the world’s desires, it won’t be long before the church is conformed to the world. (Rom. 12:2) The Bible and history should have taught us this!
The local church is not a place where we “bate” the world with one product, and then “switch” to another product once they have come in. It is a family where there is loving concern, healthy food, wise guidance, and a clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
 The church is not to be a chameleon!