Tag Archives: fellowship

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)

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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?

Why I’m not enthusiastic about your church either

In a conversation regarding the post, Why I don’t want to go to your church, I came to the revelation that even if pastors and church staff are aware of the issue of declining church attendance that plagues most churches in America today, they still manage to miss the reason for the decline and thus their proposals for fixing the problem are doomed to failure from infancy.

First off, we need to look more closely at the problem.

When we define “the church” as a 501c3 non-profit organization, its little wonder that people are not enthusiastic about participating in programs that amount to glorified marketing schemes.

Rather, what we should do is step back and ask some hard questions about how we view the Christian life. What does it mean to walk in obedience to Christ, our Lord? What does it mean to live in fellowship with our fellow brothers and sisters who are also “in Christ”? And finally; What does it mean to let our lights sigh before men?

I believe that among other things, social media will help produce as significant an impact on the body of Christ as the printing press did.

So what of the solution?

Well the solution is not to merely get mad at people for not being enthusiastic about joining yet another civil club. Its also not to encourage them to be more active in your particular civil club. Its also not to get mad at them for preferring a more entertaining civil club down the street (you know, the one with the disco lights and full screen projector1 ). The solution is for us to admit that what the reformation started, it did not complete.

What I mean by that is this: The reformers correctly identified the dependence on the priests of the Roman Catholic Church as a problem. They also correctly identified the Bible as the primary source of authority. However in splitting with Rome they neglected to get rid of Rome’s worst habit, viewing the church as a business.

The solution to the plight of the American church, therefore, is to work on reclaiming a Biblical understanding of “church”.

We’ve been attending a home church with our 3 small children for a couple of years now. At first the whole “we’re going to church” used to confuse our kids when we would switch between going to a building erroneously labeled a “church” and a small gathering of believers living out the Biblical concept. Now, however, our kids are well aware of the two seperate and distinct meanings of the word “church” and they ask us whenever we tell them “we’re going to church”, “the building or the people?”

Believers in general need to come to the realization that the 501c3 non-profit club they have “membership” in is not the church spoken of in Scripture. Oh I’m not saying its wrong to be a member of such an organization, but we need to stop lying to ourselves and others by expecting such membership to amount to anything more than membership at the local YMCA.

So why am I not enthusiastic about your church? Because I’m not impressed by your programs, your entertainment, your pastor, etc.

However I am enthusiastic about the church, headed by Christ alone. Now that is something worth getting excited about.

  1. I’m thinking about Andy Stanley’s church in particular here. []

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.

Pastoral worries

[HT Alan Knox]

Alan shares a list of things he doesn’t worry about as a pastor (teaching elder) in a home church context.

They include:

  • getting fired for saying the wrong thing
  • sermon preparation week after week
  • finding someone to “fill in”
  • budgets1
  • the meeting place
  • number of participants2

I find it amazing how prevalent professional pastor burn out is and how no one wants to come to the obvious and Biblical conclusion. No one man or small group of men should have to shoulder the burden of caring for and feeding an assembly of Christians.

  1. Professional pastors have to worry about these things because they are business owner/operators. []
  2. Large events are not required if money from multiple sources is not need to cover the expensive overhead. []

Christian Establishments and the Neglect of Faith

A friend on Facebook pointed me to this lecture by Rodney Stark, author of the excellent book Victory of Reason. This lecture is titled “Religious Competition


Audio here

I think most of what Stark says is spot-on. I disagree with him, of course, when He dogs the protestant movement and gives an unexcused free pass to the Roman Catholic Church.

I would also add that I believe we (believers) are all called to be priests, or religious suppliers, in the NT. So it is incumbent on us to be well equipped to service the markets of unbelief all around us.

Man is made for community

A new study shows compelling evidence that we are wired to be social, even from the womb. Of course, this should come as no surprise to the Christian who was told long ago that

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. -Genesis 2:18

And also

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:

If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
-Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Even secular philosophers recognized this fact

Man is a social animal. – Seneca

And John Donne

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. (Emphasis mine)

Man is made for community.

What does a simple church look like?

When You Come Together from simplechurch.com on Vimeo.

Tidal Wave – Finishing what the reformation started

Tidal Wave from simplechurch.com on Vimeo.

The Rabbit and the Elephant