Monday, January 10, 2011

So my daughter...

 So my daughter meets this guy and and his fiancee at the movie theater, and he asks to pray for her to receive 20/20 vision. Since he didn't set off her creep alarm (and I'm so glad he didn't=those white canes are expensive to replace!), she said ok, as long as there was no laying on of hands......She got to thinking about alot of the political stuff we went through as a family when I was in the full time ministry, which defeated the desire I had to change the world for Christ, and she asked "Dad, in Bible college, do they teach you how to reach the lost, or keep the church board happy?" What would be YOUR honest answer?
I posted the above on my Facebook page, and received several interesting answers.  The rendered essence may be this.  While the church is a collective, dynamic body of believers, it ceases to function as such when it becomes too much of a corporation.  Maybe my burden to "repair" the broken church is misguided.  Maybe I should be praying that God removes all that is not of Him from His Body, and let the healing take place from within. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Proper Place of Doctrine

A man I respect said there were not enough established churches doing the work of the Lord, and I could not agree more.  The subject of my last post was built around the premise is the last thing we need is more churches which are not doing the work of the Lord.
What are the indications of a true, living church?  Juan Carlos Ortiz, in his groundbreaking book "Disciple" said that God uses a stethoscope, not a multiple-choice test.  If He hears the heartbeat of His Son, He has found a child.  The same can be said of congregations.  Is the fruit of the Spirit there?  (Not just externally, but in the heart.)  Is God glorified, or man?  These are the indications of a true, living church.
But, you may well ask, what of Right Doctrine?  Is it not important?  Yes, it is vitally important!  It is an INDICATOR of a living church (NOT a fourth member of the Godhead).  A church which loves Christ above all will diligently search God's Word like the Bereans, seeking the truth so that they can serve God with greater perfection.  Growth happens when God's children sit and search the Word together, using their differing views as bridge toward a more perfect understanding.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stop Overseeding the Field

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I would have some suggested solutions to the problem of too many churches.  I have much more background that I would like to present, but let me jump ahead a few spaces and make one suggestion here.

Why don't we simply declare a moratorium on new church plants in areas where there are already an overflow of congregations?  Now, I'm not talking about something orchestrated by the government-they can't even maintain the road to Walmart.  how could we possibly expect them to help build the highway to Heaven?

No, what I am suggesting here is that we ask those who are doing the church planting to redirect their efforts.  If a group (denomination, etc.) feels called to evangelize a certain area, then they should search for a congregation who is already active in the area and with whom they have a fraternal view of doctrine, and put their resources behind this existing work. 

An individual who has felt the call of God to a region could also look at the works already in progress, to see if their is one with their same calling with whom they could partner, knowing that in their humility Christ would have the greater chance to be glorified.

If a person is called to reach a specified unreached people group, they could start a small group effort focusing on these people, but at the same time seek to incorporate this group with a congregation already working in the area, so that both the new Christians and the existing congregation would have a chance to greater fellowship as one Body.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Too Many Churches?

Do me a favor.  Jump in your favorite convenience and take a quick tour around your neighborhood.  Go ahead-I'll wait...

(Humming "Jeopardy" theme.)

You back?  Great.  How many churches did you count in your tour?  *Rephrase*  How many congregations did you count (since there is only ONE Church.)  Probably half a dozen, at least.  And all would probably say that their primary reason for existing is to introduce the unsaved to Christ.  But if they all are working toward the same goal, then why are they not working TOGETHER?

I know.  The argument is always going to be "We don't all believe the same things."  Is this true?  Go to the various congregations websites.  Click on the "What We Believe" page, and give it a good look.  You will find an amazing similarity in what is posted there, even between different classifications of denominations.  If you eliminate those who teach obvious heresy (such as denying the divinity if Christ) you STILL find many of your brothers and sisters in Christ worshiping under other names.  Think how powerful you could be if you were to follow our Lord's prayer recorded in John 17:20-22 "that all of them may be one, that the world may believe that you have sent me."

All of the resources-all of the energy-all directed toward drawing people the CHRIST, not to a brand name-, er, sorry, I mean "denomination".  

How we got this way is not as important as what we do now.  May I make a recommendation?  I will-but that will be in my next post.  God bless!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Baptism Question

I am a product of the Restoration Movement (Christian Churches/Churches of Christ), yet I have partnered with-and in some cases pastored-churches of other denominations.  The question I most often receive from friends and family is how can I work with congregations which do not immerse (baptize) immediately as a part of receiving salvation.

Terms defined:

The Restoration Movement-The non-denominational movement including the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ.  For the purposes of this paper, they (we) consider Baptism by immersion an essential part of becoming a Christian, citing Acts 2:38 and Mark 16:16. 

The Others-The many denominations which do not require baptism as a necessary part of becoming a Christian. 
The Problem-Within the Restoration Movement's belief structure salvation is a five-fold process which includes hearing the Word, believing that Christ died for our sins, repenting of our sins, confessing that Jesus is Lord, and being baptized for remission of sins.  As presented, it is entirely Biblical.  The problem arises in the implementation thereof.  Baptism is presented as the focal point, with the other steps becoming tangential to the act of baptism.  The change that is supposed to be central in salvation does not take place.  Thus the pejorative "Water Regeneration" is applied by those who are outside of the Movement.

Within the Other denominations, the act of praying to receive Jesus as Saviour and Lord is the central point of salvation.  The change of heart required for salvation is usually emphasized, thereby creating a real "reality check for the heart".  The problem is that baptism is given a lesser place than is presented in scripture.  The non-Biblical cliche "Outward Sign of an Inward Grace" is often attached.  But baptism is supposed to be far more than just a witness tool. It is an act of submission which equates us with the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, thereby applying His atonement to our sins.

Guidance in this matter was received from Dr. Brad Burnett, a professor under whom I studied at Johnson Bible College.  He stated during a lecture that those who have accepted Christ as lord and Saviour but who have not yet been baptized (but who are not rejecting the act of baptism) have entered into a kind of "verbal agreement"  which places them in the hands of a Just and Merciful God, who alone can truly examine their heart.  Those who have accepted Christ as Lord AND have been baptized have finished the "contract", and are under the saving Blood of Jesus.

The Solution:  After seeing true Christianity within other denominations, I was forced to look into Scripture, my heart, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, and have developed these guidelines for my own life in the association with my brethren in the various congregations.

1.  Does the true Spirit of God operate within?  Is the fruit of the Spirit evident? Do they place proper emphasis on the saving relationship with Christ?

2.  Do they teach any form of heresy?

3.  Is Baptism a requirement of the Christian (i.e. NOT optional)?