While I was working for Hyster Company in Portland, Oregon, we purchased a cute light blue 1964 Volkswagen “Bug” convertible from a co-worker who had recently transferred from a plant in Illinois. We really enjoyed the little “Bug,” but noticed the front end seemed a bit loose. I thought it might be the front wheel spindles, so took it in to a nearby foreign car repair shop. They called later to tell me the bad news: the pan which runs under the whole bottom of the car was rusted out and there was not anything left to which to even weld. The vehicle was not safe to drive. In Illinois, as in most snowy states, a lot of salt was used on the roads to melt ice, which is great, but it wreaks havoc on vehicles if you don’t keep them washed off—the same is true here where we live. “We’ve all seen vehicles in various stages of decay due to rust. If you own a car and ignore rust, it spreads like a cancer and eventually consumes the car.”
This ‘rust’ principle also applies to Christian institutions such as churches, Bible colleges, Christian schools and mission organizations as well as to individual Christian lives. The ‘rust’ is compromise regarding God’s Word, the Bible, as the final authority for all faith and practice. This has a corrosive effect that ends up destroying the institutions or life.
The founders of a church or other Christian institution most often had a solid, strong commitment to the Gospel and to the authority of the Bible in its entirety. The problem is that successive generations of leaders can lose that commitment and the ‘rust’ starts to corrode the institutions. You don’t have to do anything for rust to develop—it ‘just happens’ because, since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, sin has been our ‘default’ condition, and “if those running the institution are not vigilant, and just let things drift along, things will deteriorate.” Think of how many institutions, churches, denomination and ministries have started as solid, Bible-believing, institutions—like the Ivy League schools, for example— with thoroughly Christian objectives, but are now centers of hedonistic secular humanism totally opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
How does this drifting away from truth happen? It is usually because leaders and teachers are appointed who are not wholeheartedly committed to the founding principles of the institution, but they seem so qualified and charismatic that they will surely keep students and attendees coming and keep the institution going financially. But they dilute the culture of biblical authority the institution was founded upon—the rust has started! I recently saw in the news that Ben Shapiro, a strong conservative voice in America today was not allowed to speak at two well-known ‘Christian’ colleges in the west for fear that his talk may be too controversial!
There is much pressure in our culture today to be politically correct, inclusive and tolerant. By not taking a stand on controversial issues, a college or church might think it can be “All things to all men” (Cor. 9:22) and increase enrollment or donations. What they are actually doing is compromising their beliefs to accommodate those of the world under Satan and ‘rust’ has taken hold.
Paul had to deal with this in the churches he established throughout Asia Minor and Western Europe. The church at Corinth, for example, was experiencing all sorts of jealousy, strife, division and immorality—including incest—among its members (I Cor. 3:1-3; 5:1) and they were doing nothing about it (5:2). Paul wrote I Corinthians to deal with the issues, and challenged them, saying: “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven that you may be a new lump…” (5:5,6). Leaven is symbolic of sin, and sin, when we tolerate it, spreads and increases (like rust), both in our own lives and in the organizations in which we are involve.
Solomon, in the Old Testament, speaks of the “little foxes that spoil the vines” (Song of Solomon 2:15). ‘Young foxes were known to have a liking for grapes and would ruin the whole crop if not dealt with.’ We need to deal with the “little foxes” of sin/compromise early on or we too will become unfruitful. “It will be too late to do something once the little foxes have eaten all the grapes’’ or the car is all rusted out. Taking the rust out of a vehicle is not easy work—it does not happen without purposeful determination and effort and can be unpleasant with all the dirt and dust and toxic chemicals involved. “And the longer you leave it before treatment, the harder it gets to remedy.”
But, if you love your car, you will deal with the rust! And, if you want your life, your church, your Christian institution to return to its sound, biblical foundation and testimony, you will make the effort, with God’s help, of course, to get the rust out!
Even better—stop the rust before it starts. Paul told Timothy to “Retain the standard of sound words…Guard through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you…Continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of…” (II Tim. 2:13,14; 3:14). “And do not be conformed to this world (don’t compromise) but be transformed by the renewing of the mind (through the Word of God)…”(Ro. 12:1). (Thoughts taken from “Rusty Cars and Christian Institutions” by Dr. Don Batten. CMI)