“WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE “ISSUE ORIENTED?””
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE “ISSUE ORIENTED?”
Occasionally, I hear someone make the comment that those who are adamant regarding issues that face the Lord’s church are “issue oriented.” Funk and Wagnalls defines “issue” as “a matter of importance to be resolved.” Webster says it is “the point or matter depending in a suit on which two parties join and put their cause to trial.” Oriented means “the determining of one’s position with reference to circumstances, ideals, etc” (Funk and Wagnalls). Hence, to be “issue oriented” is to “determine one’s position and put that cause to trial or to the test.”
Since the Christian has the obligation to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thess. 5:21), it stands to reason that there will always be “issues” facing the Lord’s church. And, since we have the obligation to “...sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15), we are therefore “oriented” in giving a defense for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
While it is possible to become so imbalanced that we are cynical about the Lord’s church and its future, we must also face the fact that so long as the church exists, we are going to have to face the issues that come our way. To do otherwise is to abdicate our responsibility.
A negative connotation has been attached to the words “issue oriented.” This “label” is used by critics to hush the mouths of those who still love the truth while making the unsuspecting believe that there is something inherently evil in dealing with issues. None would be so bold as to suggest that all issues should be ignored, since even the most liberal change agent will take us to task on the issue of being issue oriented.
The question arises, then, as to “when” our dealing with issues becomes imbalanced. I suggest to you that any issue, and every issue that comes down the pike, is an issue that cannot be ignored and must be dealt with forthrightly. If the truth is at stake we cannot and will not remain silent. The only alternative is to ignore the issues and allow the church to be swept into apostasy. It is my studied conviction that at least one reason why the Lord’s church is so troubled today is that too many brethren have simply grown weary of fighting the battle. Consequently, false teachers have crossed the threshold and are in the midst of the flock having a heyday. Meanwhile too many elderships and preachers sit back and do nothing for fear that they might be perceived as being “issue oriented.”
Yes, it is possible to become so consumed with the issues that face the Lord’s church that we become cynical and never hold out any hope to God’s people. But the desire to provide hope and peace cannot drive us to ignore the issues that would in fact rob us of that hope and peace by leading us into error.