Category Archives: doctrine

The upside down leadership model of the Christian church

Felicity Dale has written an excellent series of posts intended to answer the question “Do organic/simple churches believe in leadership?”.

Here is an excellent video which I believe summarizes what the Bible teaches with regard to leadership in the Body of Christ:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

-Matthew 20:25-28

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Sam Harris on the importance of beliefs

A BELIEF is a lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person’s life. Are you &. scientist? A liberal? A racist? These are merely species of belief in action. Your beliefs define your vision of the world; they dictate your behavior; they determine your emotional responses to other human beings. If you doubt this, consider how your experience would suddenly change if you came to believe one of the following propositions:

  1. You have only two weeks to live.
  2. You’ve just won a lottery prize of one hundred million dollars.
  3. Aliens have implanted a receiver in your skull and are manipulating your thoughts.

These are mere words—until you believe them. Once believed, they become part of the very apparatus of your mind, determining your desires, fears, expectations, and subsequent behavior.-Sam Harris, The End of Faith

I may disagree with Sam’s subsequent assessment with regards to specific faiths. Specifically his view on the Christian faith. However his understanding of the importance of faith and its role in a person’s life is a lesson that, sadly, many Christians could stand to learn.

Training, sparring, fighting

There are at least three elements that make up a solid defender of the Christian faith.

Training

You can’t fight if you don’t know how. You might be able to flail about, but you won’t be very effective. What’s worse is that you are just as likely to hurt yourself and those on your side than you are the enemy. Especially since part of the training process is developing the ability to tell the difference between friend and foe and properly take stock of a battlefield before charging off to engage the enemy.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. -2 Timothy 2:15

Sparring

The expression used of a 2nd lieutenant in the army is “butter bars”.

After completing OCS (Officer Candidate School), a large number of newly minted butter bars tend to think that they are General Patton reincarnated and have the belief that after months of schooling they know much more than 30 year combat hardened NCOs.

Like the army, we are prone to think that mere knowledge will be enough to face the enemy with, and unfortunately many (including myself) have rushed off into battle without spending the time to properly spar with our fellow brothers at arms first.

The reason for this is simple. We never want to go into battle without at least stress testing new tactics and ideas with our battle hardened comrades. Its better to find out that our armor and weapons aren’t up to snuff in the sparring ring where our opponent isn’t seeking to do permanent damage than it is to discover our shortcomings as the knife is plunged deep into our heart by a true enemy.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. -Proverbs 27:17

Fighting

All the training and sparring in the world is pointless if it is not ultimately employed on the field of battle.

The primary means of advancing the kingdom of Christ is through winning the hearts and minds of those around us who have been captured by the enemies of false teaching and sensuous pleasure.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. -Ephesians 6:12

Because of this, it is incumbent on us to “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) to engage the enemy wherever we find him, in whatever form he happens to be in.1

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:5

As we fight, it is important to keep in mind that the enemy is not “flesh and blood”. So when we are interacting with a non-Christian we should treat them with the utmost respect and civility. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight with every fiber of our being the thoughts and practices that have captured them.

The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him. -G. K. Chesterton

At the same time

Training, sparring, and fighting should be ongoing activities in each Christian’s life. Some might object that new Christians shouldn’t be rushed into battle for fear of their being cut down. To that I propose that we “go to the lions” and teach our new recruits how to fight by going with them into minor skirmishes. Part of the role of a mature Christian should be designating and delegating strategic targets of opportunity for less mature Christians.

However it is incumbent on all Christians to charge the gates of hell in order to advance the kingdom of Christ here on earth.

  1. I’m using the personal pronoun “he” here to refer to anything that “sets itself up against the knowledge of God”. []

Judge not, lest ye abdicate your civic responsibility

I recently got called to serve jury duty in Fulton County, Atlanta. During the voir dire process where the jury panel is asked a bunch of general questions, the defendant’s lawyers asked if anyone held any religious, philosophical, spiritual, etc. Beliefs which would prevent them from sitting on a jury if selected.

Two of the women on the panel raised their cards and said their religious beliefs taught them not to judge anyone.

When pressed, the women cited Nubian and “Baptist” as their respective belief systems. The baptist couldn’t, when pressed, cite the specific reason why or where her belief on non-judgement was grounded.

I’ve written about the errant belief that the bible teaches that “thou shalt not judge” before. But this is the first time I’ve seen that belief interfere with someone doing their civic duty.

Beliefs matter, and false beliefs have wide reaching ramifications. I certainly hope that if I am ever in need of a jury of my peers, my peers will see it as a moral imperative to follow the words of Jesus and “make a right judgement”.

Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment. -John 7:24

Dissecting the body of Christ over errant doctrines

Recently a friend and fellow house church enthusiast alerted me to a division within the fellowship he is a member of. The division centered on doctrine, with one member apparently upset that the rest of the group did not appreciate the reformed doctrine he ascribed to.

Without addressing the doctrines in question, I wanted to encourage this group to seek to function like a family. Here is my letter to the group in question as well as our regular group.

I’ve yet to meet as child who holds nothing but right beliefs. I’ve yet to meet an adult who holds nothing but right beliefs for that matter either. In fact, I’m pretty sure, as Greg Koukl has said, that I hold wrong beliefs as well. The trouble is that we don’t know what those wrong beliefs are unless someone loves us enough to patiently expose them through persuasive arguments based on solid evidence (which includes the Bible).

Thankfully, the biblical standard for admittance into heaven is not our score on some sort of cosmic theology test.

It’s true that doctrine is important. And I would agree that many problems faced by the modern church are due to a severe lack of biblical training. However intellectual development only takes us so far. The other half of Biblical maturity is our actions, particularly our love for one another. Practically this means there is absolutely no Biblical justification for breaking fellowship with another member in the body of Christ outside of habitual participation in unconfessed sin.

Paul wrote Ephesians to a group of people far more divided than we could hope to be. In a city where rampant immorality was praised, and at a time when being Jewish still meant something. Yet Paul thought it was possible for them to live together in harmony. Not only that, but to build each other up (chapter 4) in preparation for the coming battle (chapter 6) with ungodly forces.

We need to prepare in every way for battle. We need to strengthen our minds through diligent study of doctrines like open theism and the tenants of Calvinism. But if we don’t, at the same time, have an equally forceful commitment to loving each other and seeking each other’s growth, being right doesn’t really matter, does it? (1 Cor 13)

Is your pastor a warrior?

In 1 Corinthians 9:7 Paul says:

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

Paul clearly indicates in the verse above that a pastor or teacher should be viewed as a soldier, someone who tends to and protects the flock. What would that look like today?

A pastor who is a soldier actively seeks opportunities to fight against the rising tide of anti-Christian sentiments. They..

  • write against such anti-Christ forces.
  • debate advocates of ideologies that set themselves against Christ.
  • take time to train their flock to defend the faith, and more, to actively engage the enemy on his own ideological ground. Training businessmen to engage their coworkers with the truth of the gospel in a winsome and tough-minded fashion. Training students to not only survive in the modern classroom, but thrive in what is now an ideological battlefield where no prisoners are taken.

Pastors generally have no problem asking for a tithe. But when 80% of youth walk away from the faith and the vast majority of Christians cannot give one good reason why they believe what the believe (a requirement, by the way, given to all believers per 1 Peter 3:15), then we need to start asking some hard questions. First and foremost we need to ask why pastors and other “professional Christians” continue to get paid for doing such shoddy work.

So before you write out your next tithe check you should ask yourself.

Is my pastor a warrior?

Why don’t church goers accept discipline?

It is a thoroughly biblical concept that members in the Body of Christ should expect to receive and dispense discipline in keeping with the repeated admonitions throughout scripture to build one another up in maturity. So if that is the case; Why do most church members end up leaving after one of the staff or fellow members rebukes them harshly?

Harsh rebukes are only valid in the context of an organic relationship. Most churches, however, are businesses. Its really hard not to be when you have assets, staff, bank accounts, etc.

When you are attending a church that operates as a business, characterized by a view of membership that is more limited than “the body of Christ” (which is the only type of “church membership” the Bible speaks of), it is easy to see how someone who receives a harsh rebuke would feel free to take their business elsewhere. No one sticks around at a restaurant or a department store while the employee berates them. And no one sticks around a country club (who also have memberships) when the members there rebuke them.

Right or wrong are largely immaterial as the main reason the people are assembled in such circumstances is to partake in the benefits of membership, which, in the case of most local churches is pure entertainment, be it from the pastor (the one-man show), the praise and worship team (the musical), or any other pageantry the organization deems appropriate (children’s programs, guest entertainers, err “evangelists”, etc.).

Discipline is only valid in the context of a relationship whose aim is not entertainment or cooperation in a program or business venture. Discipline is painful, its not fun, and as such it can only be tolerated if it is carried out under the umbrella of something worth being disciplined for.

In too many circumstances, “church discipline” is merely a euphemism for bringing someone into the fold. That is, ensuring their behavior conforms to the standards acceptable to the organization. In most cases, the question of whether the person’s behavior has violated any transcendent laws is never asked or considered.

Since most churches operate as businesses and not organic communities, it should come as no surprise that discipline is considered to be a cost of membership by most church members and not a vital component to maturing as a follower of Christ (the head of the singular church).

If we view church as a small club, isolated from the rest of the body of Christ, then we will view discipline by members of that club as merely their opinions. If, however, we view church as the assembly of God’s people we will view discipline/rebuke as a necessary part of building one another up in order to make the body of Christ stronger.

One view of discipline serves to promote the well being of an organization that will not last beyond this world. The other serves to produce solid citizens/soldiers for the eternal Kingdom of God.

So pastors, before you complain about people not accepting your discipline you should ask yourself: Am I disciplining them to be good complacent members in my little fiefdom or am I training them up to be warriors in a kingdom that is far bigger than my petty 501c3 nonprofit fiefdom?

The Calvinistic Adventures of Doug

Josh Lowery, A friend of mine from Facebook has created a series of videos exploring the idiosyncraties of Calvinism. This series is titled “The Damned”, and it provides a pretty good synopsis of some of the biggest problems in Calvinism.

Doug’s first taste of Calvinism

Doug’s Theological Trap

It’s the Glory, Stupid!

Force feeding

Theologizing le Babel

Do Atheists ever become Christians based on logic and evidence?

Many times I hear otherwise committed Christians ask whether logic and reason have ever helped anyone come to faith or not. They largely view Paul’s speech in Acts 17 as a failure and claim he changed his tactics after the incident on Mars Hill.

The Sunday after EPS (which was awesome), I attended Dr Craig’s class with my wife and Wintry Knight. While there we were treated to a tag-team presentation by Holly Ordway and Stephen Notman.

Here is the audio. [HT Brian Auten]

While both presentations are excellent, what struck me the most was Holly’s story. Being a professor of literature, Dr. Ordway was drawn to Christ primarily through the literature produced by great Christian authors.

Before Holly spoke Dr Craig had her help distribute a few books as prizes. Holly provided quotes from great Christian authors and the books were given to the people who could correctly identify the author. From this simple exchange it was evident that Holly loved her craft and took great joy in it.

We (Christians) need to listen more carefully to people like Holly and Stephen. We need to understand how they were borne into the kingdom so we can work at creating more environments that are conducive to conversions that are not merely emotional highs in a concert setting.

Also, we need more people like the ones who were instrumental in Holly and Stephen’s lives. Christians who are equipped and willing to go where the lost are, invest our lives into them, and wait for them to raise the deep questions that no other world view has an adequate answer for outside of Christianity.

False maturity and its impact on the Christian church

I had a revelation the other day about the state of the Christian church. This revelation came while talking with a friend of mine who told me a story about a family member who recently “felt called” to go be a missionary (as if that werent possible where they were at). They lamented that their family member’s reasoning and plan was deeply flawed and largely based on emotion and not good solid reasoning and planning. He was thankful that their apparent call from God had been thwarted, however it was evident that he victory had taken a toll.

Now this friend came from a missionary family who have traversed the globe doing the work of evangelists. A more spiritually minded family would be hard to find to say the least.

My revelation is this.

Growing up we had looked to my friend’s family member as the prime example of what it meant to live a spirit-filled life. Thinking about it now its apparent that our measure of spiritual maturity centered on raw mysticism and behavior modification. Not, as the Bible indicates, a definitive growth in both behavior (orthopraxis) as well as wisdom and understanding (orthodoxy).

I believe that foundation has led my friend, who is very logically minded, to struggle with what it means to be a Christian. It not only places roadblocks in his walk of faith. But it exalts what amounts to spiritual infancy.

The sad part is that growing up we looked to my friend’s family member as a warrior. Because we thought they were mature (based on our flawed understanding of maturity) we thought they were also capable contenders for the faith (Jude 4).

It is now apparent, however, that what we did (and were allowed to do by our “elders” at he time) was put a sword in the hands of the most ridiculous and infantile among us and provoke the darkness with theirs and our own ignorance.

When my children get old enough to wrestle with these faith issues, one mistake I hope to avoid is providing them with both a false view of maturity and, from that, false heroes to look up to.