Reprinted from the February 2015 issue of Gospel Advocate Magazine.
This is an auspicious year for the Gospel Advocate; July marks our 160th anniversary. Much has changed since the mid-19 century, but the guiding principles of this journal are unchanged.
Our publishing house transitioned over the years, adding new products and services. Beyond the Gospel Advocate magazine and our sister journal Christian Woman, our company provides members of the church with a range of Bible class materials, books and supplies. Although many of our materials look quite different from those offered in 1855, the truths taught are the same. Methods will change; convictions must not. The principles of consistency and change, are essential for effectiveness.
Foundations of Our Faith
There is one God who exists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and salvation is in Christ alone. The Bible is the Word of God – speaking with God’s authority; it is free from error and completely sufficient to accomplish the Lord’s work. Nothing should be added to or taken from what God says in Scripture.
We insist on God’s way of salvation because we are convinced salvation is only in Christ. Penitent faith, expressed in the good confession and in Christian baptism, is the only way to be in Christ. He is the One in whom we believe. He is the subject of our confession, and the One in whom we are baptized.
We insist on following God’s pattern for the work and worship of the church because we are convinced the Word of God is true, authoritative and sufficient. The burning of incense, liturgical dance, instrumental music and all other unauthorized acts of worship have no place in the church, for they lack God’s expressed approval. Likewise, any church organization beyond the congregation is excluded, being unbiblical. In all we teach and in all we do in the church, we find in Scripture our complete and perfect guide.
The Lord’s people have continually improved methods as we have followed the Lord’s unchanging Word.
The words of Scripture were copied by hand until the Gutenberg press. Tolbert Fanning and William Lipscomb printed the first issue of the Gospel Advocate using movable type set by hand. Today our journal is composed on computers and sent digitally to a printer. Many of our books are now available in the Kindle format.
Christians have always found new means and opportunities to spread the Word of God effectively. In the past, radio and television opened doors for the gospel far beyond those who could be reached in a church building. Today, the Internet and satellite technology provide the church with a worldwide reach.
Advances in communications present opportunities but challenges as well. With transitions in technology, Christians need to be prudent while embracing the new media.
Projection units wired to computers have replaced chalkboards and overhead projectors in worship and in Bible classes. Opening many avenues for communication, this transition has also raised a problem of abuse. The ease of bringing video clips and cartoon images into a class or worship service has led to replacing biblical instruction with entertainment. The ease of digital projection encourages change without reflection.
Likewise, the Internet and social media need to be used with caution. We have the blessing of an unprecedented opportunity for communication, but we need to be careful what we communicate. The tools making it easier to spread the good news of Jesus Christ are also making it easier to spread gossip and discord. Further, we must be careful not to permit digital communication to replace personal interaction.
Christians must not turn our backs on new technology, nor should we blindly adopt it. Just because something can be done does not mean it should be done, and just because something has not been done before does not mean we cannot do it going forward. As in so many areas of Christian life and work, there is a need for balance – informed by biblical conviction.