07 November 2008

Why you need to be in a church this Sunday

by Dan Phillips

Howdy! While Pyro was dark during October, I went a bit nuts over at my place, posting about sixty-six times. A couple of them, I mean to re-work and share with anyone here who may not have dropped by there. Here's the first, all re-worked, with extra coals added. Hey — this is Pyromaniacs!

"Everything old is new again," and the saying certainly holds true when it comes to heresy, false doctrine and plain old unbiblical nuttiness.

For instance, back in the anti-establishment 60s and 70s, Christianoid kids would verbally trash the "organized church." Didn't need to go to a building, they'd say; they were the church. The real Bible scholars among them (relatively speaking) might yank 1 Corinthians 6:19 out of context and waterboard it a bit, until it said what they wanted to hear.

But no, Trevor, you're not the church. You're part of the church. The word ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia) means "assembly," and no, you're really not an assembly. Doesn't matter how many chins you have, you still aren't an assembly.

What you are (you tell me) is a Christian. If you're a Christian, you claim Jesus as your Lord.

Where's your Lord today? He depicts Himself as walking among local assemblies (Revelation 1:12-13, 20), holding their pastors in His right hand (vv. 16, 20). What do you think the message is, there? Why is He not watching a lovely sunset, or fishing, or walking the dog, or riding a comet? Why among churches, among assemblies, cherishing their pastors?

Because that's where Jesus is. That's where His great heart is. Do you know better than He? Which one of you is "Lord," again?

That's the church, that local assembly of believers where pastors lead, the Word is preached, the ordinances are observed, and discipline is carried out. Christ loved it and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). He died for it.

But you won't walk into one of them, and stay there? Which one of you is "Lord," again?

Before He died, Jesus prayed for the church, all of it (John 17). Even (especially!) with what He was facing, the church was on His heart.

But you won't attach yourself to one, to join it and work in it and pray for it? Which one of you is "Lord," again?

Who is your pastor? Are you fool enough to say "Jesus is my pastor"? Nonsense. When He ascended, He gave pastors to the church (Ephesians 4:11). If He gave them, then He isn't them. Which one is your pastor, your toe-to-toe, eyeball-to-eyeball pastor?

Your "Lord" charged pastors with the care of souls. That means Jesus — your Lord, so you say — thinks your soul needs watching over (Hebrews 13:7, 17). Which individual flesh and bones living pastor is watching over your soul, in person, individually?

If "none," how is it that you decided you are smarter than Jesus? You know, Jesus. Your "Lord." Which one of you is "Lord," again?

Jesus, your Lord, also called you to know, show respect for, esteem highly in love, and submit to the leadership of your flesh-and-blood in-person pastor (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:17). Which pastor is it that sees you come regularly to be discipled and led, and sees you loving and trusting God enough to yield him the love and submission to which God calls you?

If you bristle at the thought of embracing what Jesus calls you to — which one of you is "Lord," again?

And if you fall into unrepentant sin, which assembly will even know of it, let alone discipline you? Jesus says you need that, too (Matthew 18:13-20). I don't care what complex, high-sounding Dagwood sandwich of excuses you can slap together. If you say you don't need to be in a local assembly, you say you're smarter than Jesus, and are sufficient.

Fool!

And remember, that Jesus you say is your "Lord" said that the second most important thing in the world is to love your neighbor (Matthew 22:39). He moved Paul to tell you your fellow-church-member is your premier neighbor (Galatians 6:10). That's where you take all that rich doctrine (Ephesians 1—3), and live it out in community (Ephesians 4—6). That's where you do all those dozens of "one anothers."

And if you tell yourself that your spouse or children are all the "one anothers" you need, God already said "No." If you insist, you put your judgment over God's.

Meaning that, whatever your mouth professes, your choices say you find God's judgment deficient, and yours superior.

Meaning you're a fool and a de facto blasphemer — whether you intend to be or not.

And you thereby bring harm on your spouse and children, by preaching and living a lie to them.

That's for starters.

So, Jesus — your "Lord" — says you need to be in a local church. You say you don't?

Which one to believe? You? Or Jesus? You? Or Jesus? Hmm.

Here's the problem, I think. I've said a word thirteen times: Lord. The confession of Jesus as Lord is fundamental to Christian faith (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Philippians 2:11). In repentant faith, we bow the knee to Christ's Lordship.

I think the problem with a lot of these late-blooming hippies is, at root, authority. They don't like to have to sit still and listen while someone else talks. They don't like someone else being in charge. They don't like being encouraged to join, commit, join in, be with, commit themselves, be accountable, be answerable.

Our race was bitten with an anti-authority bug when great-grandma bought the "You shall be as gods" line, and great-granddad followed her lead. But conversion — real conversion — deals with that bug.

It all really comes back to Jesus, the Lord. You may not like the idea of being accountable to a man, or a group of men. You'd rather sit home, watching TV or listening to tapes. Whenever you want, wherever you want. No yucky people to be patient with; don't have to listen to all their whiny problems and needs. No need to adjust to different accents, different ways of thinking, different cultures. Just you, you, you.

But Jesus — the Lordcommands you to go to church, join in church, participate in church, and submit to the God-ordained human leadership of the church.

That's your issue. Is Jesus your Lord in reality, or in theory alone? When convenient, or no? Are your ego and control-issues the boundary of His Lordship?

See you in church.

PS: and I think I can speak confidently for Phil and Frank in saying — God forbid that someone use our blog as a substitute for obeying Jesus and involving himself in the fellowship of a local church of Christ.

Update: see this post and the meta further developed here.

Dan Phillips's signature

83 comments:

Frank Turk said...

May god forbid it indeed.

JackW said...

I agree, but I'm curious, are you guys meeting alot of people who don't go to church?

greglong said...

Dan wrote:

PS: and I think I can speak confidently for Phil and Frank in saying — God forbid that someone use our blog as a substitute for obeying Jesus and involving himself in the fellowship of a local church of Christ.

WHAT??!! But didn't Jesus say, "For where two or three [bloggers] are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them"???

DJP said...

Jack W — I agree, but I'm curious, are you guys meeting alot of people who don't go to church?

Four-part answer:

1. Too many.

2. What prompted this particular post was an encounter I had within a few days of Pyro "going dark." One of my "friends"(-I-don't-actually-know) on Facebook "chatted" at me. He said Pyro was his home-page, and he was sad it'd be idle. As we chatted, he asked whether he could use me to answer Hebrew and Greek questions. (So he's a hardcore Bible guy, right?)

I said what I usually say, as many will attest: "You should ask your pastor."

"Oh, so... you think I should be going to a church?" was the essence of the response from this young man who had Pyro as his home page.

As you can imagine, my response was... direct, intense, and pointed. To the best of my ability.

Two kickers: (A) he also told me he was thinking of being a pastor (!); and (B) next time he bumped into me, he asked whether we'd ever chatted before. Clearly, I hadn't made much of an impact.

So the blogging rule is that for every person who says something, __ more people actually think it, but aren't saying it.

3. Scores and scores of followers of a man named R. B. Thieme, Jr. have done nothing but gather in homes, listening to his taped talks. They're not alone. And they pride themselves on being hip-deep into "Bible doctrine."

4. Doubt the relevance? Watch this meta, see who and how many yelp. I'd love to be wrong.

Marie said...

Dan,

Never mind listening to doctrinal tapes or "doing church" (I hate that expression) at your blog. It gets better.

Yesterday, I read a Newsweek article about a new pphenomenon: cyber-communion. Yes indeedy. The piece opened with this husband and wife, hooked in through an online community, giving each other Crystal Light and a bagel chip. They described how "meaningful" it was ("I actually got choked up!") The fellow enthused. I swear I am not making this up.

Umm...not to stretch it, but...doesn't "communion" somehow imply the actual (as opposed to "virtual") presence of community? Isn't that half the point of a communion service...? I couldn't believe it when I read that. Apparently, there are whole sites now devoted to do-it-yourself-communion.

Glad you're back pyro-ing, btw.

DJP said...

I'm getting a little choked-up myself, Marie.

:^P

Staci at Writing and Living said...

I've never known you to have a problem being direct, intense, and pointed. :)

Matt said...

Our race was bitten with an anti-authority bug when great-grandma bought the "You shall be as gods" line, and great-granddad followed her lead. But conversion — real conversion — deals with that bug.

I think this hits the nail right on the head, Dan. We want to be a bunch of selfish autonoms. When biblical doctrine or good leadership "hurts" someone's feelings, or is found to be offensive, then run the other way.

Tell me if I'm saying too much here, but would it not be correct to say that virtually every pop-fad-heresy around today is an attempt to get out from under authority? For example:

1)Egalitarianism
2)Open Theism (perhaps even Arminianism?)
3)Modernism
4)Postmodernism/Emergent
5)Liberation Theology
6)Ducking out on church
7)Health-and-Wealth
8)WordFaith
9)"The Shack"

They all appeal to Lord Matt rather than the Lord Jesus, no?

DJP said...

I think that's perfectly fair to say, Matt. They're either addressed directly against the sovereign Lordship of God, or the delegated authority of one of His representatives.

Paul most emphatically DOES NOT allow for a facile bifurcation of the two, in Romans 13.

andyk said...

greglong,

The text in which you are referencing (Matt. 18:15-20), in context, is about church discipline...which takes place within a church body.

Connie said...

Hmmmm, my hubby and I had part of this conversation last night as he was reading excerpts to me from "Blue Like Jazz" (research purposes ONLY!--next up is Driscoll's book).

Miller's attitude reminded me of the anti-establishment attitude of the 60's & early 70's.

Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun!

DJP said...

Andy — Greg was making the little joke. Parody.

Kevin Craig said...

I am an anarchist. "Organized churches" are, by definition, "archist." Therefore no "organized church" will allow me, an anarchist, to be a member.

I'd love to enjoy more-than-virtual fellowship and community with other believers, and would love to be mentored and held accountable by a mature, shepherding believer, but there's no "organized church" that even wants me to darken its doors. (Probably because I like to explain to people why the Bible says we should abolish "organized governments.")

Therefore I do not attend church.

DJP said...

Kevin — then this post is about you, and you need to repent or stop muddying Christ's name by claiming to follow him.

Jack — see?

Caleb Kolstad said...

Thanks for this!

Chad V. said...

Jack

There are tons of people out there who call themselves Christians but won't go to church, Kevin is the first one of his kind that I've seen but back when Old Truth was up and running we used to get all kinds of people that refused to go to church for lots of different reasons. In fact some of the last posts on Old Truth before it was shut down were about this very topic.

Don't forget about Harold Camping and all of his followers.

andyk said...

greglong,

sorry about that...please forgive me for the uneeded correction.

Thanks DJP!!

Frank Turk said...

Kevin Craig:

"Let every person(A) be subject to the governing authorities. For(B) there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment," says the Apostle Paul. It couldn't possibly be any clearer than that. I can say without any reservation or qualification that your political philosophy is pantently anti-biblical.

And it leads you to anti-biblical ecclesiology. Repent today -- this very minute if you are willing. Confess your sin to God and to your brothers in Christ and turn to Jesus who will forgive you.

The church is not merely invisible, and it is certainly not optional. Re-read Dan's post here and let it convict you.

I can't use stronger language than this without upsetting the homeschool moms, but if you were standing here with me, I'd use the language of Malachi against you and your horribly-flawed view of the world.

chrish said...

Frank,
Strong language? From the Bible? I'm stunned... and that it would compel someone to a specific action? I'm gobsmacked!

Willem Bronkhorst said...

Dan,

As a pastor, I can hardly express in words what this post meant to me. I have long suspected that "the Church", in the thinkng of too many evangelicals, is a solely abstract thing that does not exist n any real sense, anywhere. Maybe some people will say that this impression is a pastor thing and pastors just want people to come to "their" churches on the Lord's Day. But I felt this way long before I became a pastor. In the minds (and lives) of too many evangelicals they are their own popes in thier own own "church". This post has gone a long way towards challenging that false notion. Thank you, so very, very, much. It is because of posts like this one that I read Pyromamniacs.

Staci at Writing and Living said...

Thanks for your consideration, Frank, but the homeschool moms here, to borrow one of my favorite phrases from Piper, have "massive steel in their backs and theology in their brains." :)

Gilbert said...

Saw the original post and was edified; saw it again, and I have this question:

What do you Pyros think of the emerging trend (not Emerging trend) of "satellite" churches, either churches with satellite campuses where the sermon is received remotely via Internet, satellite or DVD/recorded broadcast with a local pastor (whose exact role I can't comment on because I've never been a member at one). Good? Bad? Indifferent?

And what does one do if there 1) is no local church, 2) the ones that are local are apostate? The latter is not a theoretical question. What would you say to both of them?

Barbara said...

I go to church. Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday evenings. I never miss unless I'm out of town or just deathly ill.

Started going in March after Jesus taught me something about the folly of my own ways and led me to cry out to Him in surrender. Somehwere in there He turned my life and heart around and filled this preacher's daughter with a voracious appetite for Him and the truth and Word and knowledge and understanding of Him.

But the church I go to? Turns out it was started six years ago when a family had a disagreement with the church they were in and went off to start their own church. Little country church in a tiny Southern rural farming community. The patriarch got really mad the other night because it was suggested that we get someone who knows what they're doing to install siding on the church rather than he "practice with one box" and try to do it himself. The ladies gossip like there's no tomorrow, and bitterness toward another newer member who doesn't "fit in" is spit out behind his back like pure bile. The idea of actually following what the bible teaches rather than just praying The Prayer, getting baptized, and showing up everytime the doors are open ... met with blank gazes and return to gossip. There is no church discipline practiced, such a thing isn't talked about 'round these parts. I can count on one hand the number of members who refrain from the gossip, who clearly love the Lord, and who clearly love their neighbors and brethren and who thirst for His Word. With fingers left over. I find myself constantly praying for guidance, "Father, I love these folks, it's breaking my heart, but if I 'gently rebuked' every time, that's all I'd ever be doing...help?"

(Yes, I'm aware how arrogant that sounds, bear with...)

So, why do I go there? My arrival there, on the same day as my pastor and family's first day there, was God-ordained in a way that you cannot imagine. Since then I've been tempted to pick up and find a more "biblical" church, but I don't. I stay and I've been given the women's group to lead, and I realize something:

There is no such thing as a perfect church. Every assembly of believers will have its share of tares among the wheat, and if statistics tell us anything, it's entirely possible that in most any assembly - particularly in one that does not practice church discipline there will be more tares than wheat. It behooves us to examine ourselves to ensure that we are not among the tares - particularly when we find everything in the world wrong with a body of believers. I do firmly believe that the "church" (little "c") is the largest mission field we have these days.

He has blessed me with a pastor who recognizes God's work in me and who patiently listens when I'm constantly bringing Him something I've printed off or a Spurgeon book or a CD of a sermon I've burned or a concern about terminology (ie, "allowing God to work in our lives" in a Sunday morning sermon vs. "Submitting to His authority in our lives") and though he jokes with me about being his "Calvinist member", there is a sense of a deeper, richer layer developing in his ministry, a greater reverence for and closer fellowship with God that shows in both him and his wife.

And to think that 9 months ago I was fighting against this "urge" to get back to church because I dreaded having to warm a pew and put up with "church people."

I have also found that God is using this highly imperfect group to teach this highly imperfect person something about the measure of grace He has granted me. He convicts me of my pride and reminds me that pride has no place in the heart of one of His children. He uses this for my sanctification and He teaches me something about love and commitment and sacrifice for human beings who aren't related to me (all of which as a daughter of Eve I was really, really bad at). And now that I lead the women, I have to set an example from the heart. I'm still new at all this, and God has me swimming in the deep end, dependent on Him for every step - and oh, how He is faithful. I love that.

One more thing He's teaching me through all this: patience.

As my pastor and his wife and I partner in these things, there is a slowly developing richness beginning to emanate through the church's teachings about the glory of God, the sovereignty of God, the marks of genuine conversion, the beauty of the Scriptures. Many of the members seem on the outside to be untouched by this, but we pray. I know of one young teenager who has been coming under some heavy conviction, and so we pray. We pray for them, we pray for ourselves, we pray for God's will to be done, and for each of us to be conformed to the image of Christ. We pray with the general sense that it was no coincidence that a brand-new preacher and family who do bear the fruit of the Spirit and this brand-spanking-new convert showed up on the same Sunday and have steadily gone to work to learn and to grow and to teach and to pray for these folks, these folks who have somehow welcomed us wholly and fully. I have no doubt that God has a plan to work within the hearts of the folks in this little church, just as He is working in the hearts of its leaders, and that we will see His immense glory when it comes to fruition.

Paul Washer issued ten indictments against the modern church - it's all over the net, easy to google and very well worth a listen. I grew up in exactly what he describes, much of what he describes has a lot to do with why I walked away from the church a long time ago and with today's complaints about it. But ultimately, we can't just complain and walk away. Rather, we stay and fight (Biblically) for the kingdom of God; always broken, always teachable, walking in the Spirit.

Frank Turk said...

Staci --

I generally agree with John Piper. However, if I had said something like this to Kevin, I think this meta would have changed its objectives pretty quick.

Especially if I had omitted the verse numbers.

huauqui said...

Dan,

Thanks for the great post. I too agree that to many people today want to be lone rangers in their "christian" lives. I find their unwillingness to place themselves under the authority of the church and its leaders as one clear indicator of wether or not Christ is truly their Lord. However, I do not find anywhere in scripture where we are to put ourselves under the "Pastor."

As "the pastor", a paid full time elder, in our church I find to many people who are only willing to see me "the pastor" as the authority in our church. God placed Elders/overseers in charge. I struggle on a daily basis to get the body to see us (the elders) as equals and that we lead as a unified God honoring group. And that any of us is able to give good counsel which should be heeded in the same manor.

I know your Calvidispiebaptogelical bent is at work here but I struggle with the thought that anyone puts themselves under just one man. A man alone will fail but put yourself under the authority of Christ and the church and its leaders and you will be better off.

Just my two centavos.

Gary

PS I hope this doesn't drag us off topic, I am loving this discussion about truly belonging to a church.

NothingNewUnderTheSun said...

Frank:"Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment," says the Apostle Paul.


Was it wrong for Martin Luther to resist the corrupt authority of the Pope?

Was it wrong for American slaves like Frederick Douglass to illegally escape from his master while slavery was still legal in this country?

Was it wrong for those within Germany to illegally oppose Hitler and hide Jews from certain death?

While we need to give to Ceasar what is Ceasar's, this does not mean we bow down to their authority (emperor worship) as if it supplants God's authority. Sure all leaders are (temporarily) given power within God's providence, but it's also part of God's providence to have their taken power away at some point in time.

DJP said...

Gary — I cited Scriptures in which God commands you to esteem highly in love, submit to, and yield to your pastor.

Are you quibbling because I say "pastor" instead of "elder"? The terms are Biblically interchangeable.

Are you quibbling because I say "pastor" instead of "pastors"? Fine, say "pastors" where I say "pastors." Say "elders" where I say "elders."

Many excellent men think that churches must have a plurality of elders. No verse says so, so I don't say so. One is a minimum.

How many should a church have? As many as God gives it.

Local churches are led by pastors/elders/overseers. Attendants should go to those assemblies, and submit to the leadership. The Bible says so.

Kevin Craig said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Kevin, I think I see what your problem is. I already identified it in the post, which you've been asked to read... a couple of times.

You've barged in, evidently saw "Aha! My favorite topic!" and pasted your spiel. Nobody can tell or teach you anything, but you'd love to load our blog with links to your dodges.

Wrong blog.

This isn't "Open Mike Friday." The post is about something. Read it, interact with it, or pass by.

Respectabiggle said...

Mr. Craig,

If it's true that no church wants you around, your posts here and your websites leave me with the impression that that may well be based more on your personality than your beliefs.


I'm reminded of the Churchill quote - one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

eastendjim said...

And what does one do if there 1) is no local church, 2) the ones that are local are apostate? The latter is not a theoretical question. What would you say to both of them?

Personally, I drive my family 32kms and 2 communities away from our home to meet with brothers and sisters of the church.

I have read about Chinese Christians who walk 3-6 hours on a Sunday to meet in a field.

chrish said...

"Open mike Friday!" That's excellent! I laughed, and people in my office suspect I wasn't doing actual work.

DJP said...

You're secret's safe with me, Chris.

Honesly, I have no patience with people who see a post titled "Forty-seven Reasons Christ is God," hit the "Post Reply" button, and blurt, "Christ isn't God. Here's a post I wrote about that."

None.

Can you tell?

chrish said...

DJP,

I had a suspicion. You haven't been very clear in the past...

/sarcasm

JOYce said...

Thanks, Staci ~ Thanks for your consideration, Frank, but the homeschool moms here, to borrow one of my favorite phrases from Piper, have "massive steel in their backs and theology in their brains." :)

Now while agreeing with the post it is asked if there is grace and mercy and encouragement for readers like me that God brings to the internet but not a local assembly at varied points in time...and with His perfectly ordered purpose? For some and maybe many it isn't a matter of disobedience and won't but genuine can't and with a fair share of being wrongly judged on appearances and assumptions with tall tales and gossip woven into tangled webs with rejection abounding in the blosophere. This internet window into the world many days can leave folks feeling unlovable and disposable if not yielded of mind in Christ to know Jesus, besides walking among local assemblies, also sees the Holy Spirit in them 24/7/365, knows them yet loves them, and is interceeding for them. Even in that, disappointments have been His appointments for those just like me on days I'd rather just give up.

May He forbid it indeed we call brothers and sisters fools that God doesn't though He would view some of us as fools, indeed. Do we at times judge on appearances while God perfectly judges what we couldn't begin to see?

JackW said...

Barbra, great story, hang in there, you are not alone. I am in many ways in the same situation that you are.

Dan, isn't it "open line Friday?" ... and so far I suspect you may be right, though only one so far. I vote that Mr. Craig join Frank's church.

Gilbert said...

Barbara---

Thanks for your testimony about what you are going through/been through. It really speaks volumes about how you submit to the Lord in your life. Keep the faith, keep pressing onward and upward, and I pray God continues to protect you and transforms the flock at your church. And thanks for answering my questions in a way better than I could have imagined.

And I'm waiting for Frank to go "See? See?"! :-)

bootsandbibles said...

I like this site.

I do have a question:

I'm gathering that most of you are Protestants, yes?

How exactly then do you define "God's delegated authorities" outside the context of Apostolic Succession?

This seems something you feel very strongly about, yet I don't see any direct addressing of this issue of what, precisely, constitutes a biblical, godly, delegated authority. Not a critique, per se, but it is something I (and others who have certainly had issues in the past with pastors abusing their position) would like to see cleared up.

Thanks!

atruefaith.com said...

I’ve been mulling over your article, Dan, and I certainly can’t disagree with your underlying exhortations. That said, I think it’s worth mentioning that modern evangelicals have done a terrible job in actually living the Gospel and welcoming hard hearts back into the fold. The message of the last twenty years on this topic has been toxic: “Get back to church! It’s in the Gospel! It’s your duty!” not “Come back and worship with us for the sake of your soul, for the good of your Savior and because we love you.”

You said:

“I think the problem with a lot of these late-blooming hippies is, at root, authority. They don't like to have to sit still and listen while someone else talks. They don't like someone else being in charge. They don't like being encouraged to join, commit, join in, be with, commit themselves, be accountable, be answerable.”

It’s not just late-blooming hippies who resist authority - and you did elude to this. The spirit of the natural heart is always inclined to resist anything that threatens to humble it and make it subservient. But these same “late blooming hippies” also come with legitimate gripes. And one of their biggest is “Hey, I thought the Gospel had a great deal to say about gentleness and respect. For example, I thought Paul was pretty clear in Ephesians 4:2 when he said “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” and frankly your so-called patience, humility and forbearance doesn’t look a whole lot different than mine..and I don’t even claim to believe any of this fluff found in [b]your[/b] Bible. So why is it that you don’t seem live like you believe it either?”

Solameanie said...

Waterboarding Scripture . . .

Dan, you almost made me spit coffee all over my screen. I'll have to use that in a sermon sometime!

Next, I am trying to imagine someone using TeamPyro for a church service. How in the world would you pass cups of grape juice through the screen? Cyberchurch seems to always forget about sacerdotal functions.

DJP said...

Fair enough, TrueFaith.

Perhaps my approach reflects how I have to deal with myself, time and again. More times than I can tell you, and in more contexts than I can name, I've had to face the howling storm of my own emotios, with their own thousands of whiney excuses and evasions, and say, "But, it is written...."

And so frankly, I read some of the things above, I hear the dozens of "I have a note from God saying I don't have to obey" stories, and I think the very best thing to say is:

"Hm. Well, I'll be. Quite a story. So anyway, God says to be in church. You gonna?"

That's it, isn't it? "If you love me, you will obey my commands." Not, "If you love me, give Me a shot to convincing you that it's in your best interest if you give My suggestions a second shot, when you feel like it."

So, we gonna? Or not?

atruefaith.com said...

"Perhaps my approach reflects how I have to deal with myself, time and again. More times than I can tell you, and in more contexts than I can name, I've had to face the howling storm of my own emotios, with their own thousands of whiney excuses and evasions, and say, 'But, it is written....'"

A very healthy approach to be sure.

"That's it, isn't it? "If you love me, you will obey my commands." Not, "If you love me, give Me a shot to convincing you that it's in your best interest if you give My suggestions a second shot, when you feel like it."

Amen. All of them, including love your neighbor and enemy and all that too.

"So, we gonna? Or not?"

We're gonna. And we gotta.

Good stuff, thanks.

Brad

Kevin Craig said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Kevin, second warning: stop.

If you don't want to interact with the post, don't.

But this blog isn't here as a bulletin board for your blog. READ the post, talk about THE POST, or feel free to move on.

dac said...

Are Church Youth Groups Part of the Problem?

First, I am good with church youth groups - the opportunity for Christian kids to connect with each other, learn the bible, form positive relationships, all good. Far better than what I spent my high school years doing.

But I ask for this reason. It seems to me that a large group of church goers is college students. Fresh out of all our evangelical churches with swinging youth groups, go off to college, connect with a swinging college youth group, and then decide, you know, this group is a lot more fun than church, Since they now don't get hauled out of bed by their parents, the college group becomes their church.

Well, it aint.

That's my observation. It's worth what you paid for it.

dac said...

large group of "NON" church goers.

You guys really could use an edit function. Or, I could at least

Matt said...

Bootsandbibles: How exactly then do you define "God's delegated authorities" outside the context of Apostolic Succession?


How/why would succession enter the picture?

My strong suspicion is that Dan is referring to the actual apostles when he speaks of God's delegated authorities. Their legacy is contained in Scripture, not in a line of successors to an office.

Matt said...

(/troll feeding)

Frank Turk said...

Boots:

To the chagrine of many people, we would affirm apostolic succession. To the chagrine of every single Catholic and Orthodox apologist on Earth, we would affirm succession of truth and not succession of office.

That is: those who say what the apostles said are their true successors. The pastors and/or elders of Ephesus, for example, do not have the authority that Timothy had because they have the office he had in his church -- they only have his authority if they are teaching what he taught.

"succession" is a matter of matetrial continuity and not merely formal continuity.

The IBEX Scribe said...

I have a friend who came to faith last year. What I observed in his arguments for not going to church were memories of a bad church experience in his past and rather mystical thinking about how one knows God.

He is now going to church regularly, convicted to do so by the Holy Spirit. This conviction came about the same time he started to study the Bible. Coincidence? I think not.

This is one case that I have observed lately of someone wanting to fly solo.

I think that far too often other Christians make it hard to go to church. I went to a church for a time that had great teaching but was very "unfriendly". People didn't greet anybody they didn't know. They were satisfied with their own group of friends and did not feel the need to reach out to new people. For those of us who do go, how do we behave to each other? Let us pray that God gives us love for each other that is evident to those who enter our midst.

DJP said...

Very true, IBEX, but other peoples' sins are not excuses for my sinning.

Though it is a popular dodge.

(I say this as complementary to your point, not as a correction.)

DJP said...

Boots, I don't get how you can say I didn't address it. Minus the formatting:

Who is your pastor? Are you fool enough to say "Jesus is my pastor"? Nonsense. When He ascended, He gave pastors to the church (Ephesians 4:11). If He gave them, then He isn't them. Which one is your pastor, your toe-to-toe, eyeball-to-eyeball pastor?

It's very simple. Romans 13 says God creates and structures authority. To resist the authority within its sphere is to resist God. In the home, that's the parents; in the family, the husband; in the church, the elder(s)/pastor(s{/overseer(s).

Not really that hard to put together, if one doesn't have a chip on his shoulder he has to keep picking up.

Staci at Writing and Living said...

dac: "Are church youth groups part of the problem?"

It depends. How's that for an answer?

My youth group experience was probably better than most, but there was a lot of teaching of good things from the wrong starting point.

Don't have sex because you might get pregnant.

Don't drink because you might get in a drunk driving accident.

And one that still puzzles me: Don't play Beatles records backwards because you'll get subliminal messages from Satan. Which was pointless to a bunch of teens in 1988 who were busy listening to really good music like Milli Vanilli (that was sarcasm).

But there wasn't nearly enough of: You were born a sinner and you have no hope apart from Christ.

If more youth groups started there, the church would be better off.

Frank Turk said...

I am also saying this all sounds vaguely familiar to me ...

Shawn said...

Greglong said, "WHAT??!! But didn't Jesus say, "For where two or three [bloggers] are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them"???"

I realize he was making a joke, but did want to point out that in context this verse is not speaking of Church...this verse does not say that if 2 or 3 are gathered in Christ's name that it is then a Church, where He is then in their midst approving of a tiny congregation. The passage is speaking of Church DISCIPLINE, and saying that when those 2 or 3 witnesses come to confront a brother in sin, the righteous Judge, if I can put this reverently, has their back and agrees with the judgment they are about to declare on said sinful brother.

Anyways, it's just a pet peeve of mine when I hear of young people my age hanging out with two or three "believers" and they talk about Christ and consider that the equivalent of Church...reciting that verse to me.

Mike Riccardi said...

The pastors and/or elders of Ephesus, for example, do not have the authority that Timothy had because they have the office he had in his church -- they only have his authority if they are teaching what he taught.

Great point. And I think we can benefit from taking it even farther back. Timothy got the authority from the teaching handed down to him by Paul. And Paul got his authority from the teaching given to him by Christ Himself.

That is, there wasn't something warm and fuzzy about the Apostles that got them their office. You're only an Apostle insofar as you're an effective (read: truthful) witness of those things you've eye-witnessed. It begins and ends with Christ.

And if you think about it, you can hear all 5 of the 5 sola's shouting loudly from those ideas.

bootsandbibles said...

All right. Good. Glad to have answers to the question, but it raises another point...

How would pastor, as an office, be too much different from another grounded believer in whom you confided that helped you understand the Bible and its teachings better? This is a bit confusing to me, because you guys emphasise the importance of having a pastor, and that the church is trusted into the hands of a pastor as a sort of head over a congregation – and I'm in total agreement here.

Maybe the bigger question is what marks a pastor off from an accountability partner, a Bible teacher, or something else along those lines? You describe a pastor as someone teaching and discipling people in the manner of Christ. I guess what I'm trying to see is how someone fitting that criteria for pastorship has to be in an official, ordained office as opposed to someone who just has that gift.

I'm not trying to flamebait or troll. I'm trying to figure some things out, and find it interesting that I stumbled onto your site (and particularly, this entry) at this time. I do genuinely want to hear some more of this fleshed out...

Rhology said...

I need to be in a church this Sunday b/c, if I skip, they'll give me the left foot of disfellowship.

Phil Johnson said...

Kevin Craig:

On your website, you cite an article of yours and say, "By the way, John McArthur quotes my article above a few times in various works of his."

So I looked for what you might be talking about. I can't find any published work by MacArthur where he cites your article. Can you document your claim?

Incidentally, I may be a glutton for punishment here, but after reading Kevin's website, I'm inclined to encourage him to take another stab at participation in our meta: short comments, no long diatribes, no cut-and-paste regurgitations from articles he has had on the web for years--but real interaction with us on the question of authority and anarchy in the church.

I'm amazed that anyone who had ever actually read the Bible could possibly hold some of the views Kevin espouses--and doubly amazed that he seems utterly blind to how much his posted thoughts are all about Kevin and very little about Christ. But I think it would be interesting to probe the mind of someone so thoroughly obsessed with a hatred for spiritual authority and yet who apparently thinks he is really a Christian.

Either Dan or Frank is welcome to veto me on that, but. . . wow. Dan: you really have a gift for turning over the rocks that hide strange species, don't you?

DJP said...

Yes, Phil; it would be one of those gifts not mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12.

Let me add a (re-)specification to Phil's invitation: interact with this post. The title is not "Please vent your favorite excuses for disobeying God here," for a reason.

chrish said...

I used to work at a Christian College, and we held a talk led by a professor called "Losing your Faith at a Christian College." He led a group discussion about the phenomenon of Christians coming out of Christian Colleges with less faith than they came in with. And, at the end, he said something like, "If you want to be guaranteed to hold no faith in Christ, stop attending church." I was struck by that, and I still tell that story to people.

The worst thing about the Church is that it is full of people. The best thing is that it is full of people for whom the Almighty died a terrible death to redeem, reconcile, and forgive.

I think God has a sense of humour for that reason alone...

Phil Johnson said...

Dan:

I don't know if you followed his link to the place where he dissected your post sentence by sentence. I won't link it because I don't want to troll for him, but if you haven't seen it, I'll e-mail you the link.

My favorite part:

DJP: "Who is your pastor? Are you fool enough to say 'Jesus is my pastor'? Nonsense. When He ascended, He gave pastors to the church (Ephesians 4:11). If He gave them, then He isn't them. Which one is your pastor, your toe-to-toe, eyeball-to-eyeball pastor?"

Kevin: "Who wants to be my 'pastor?' Nobody I know. Nobody I know who calls himself a "pastor" wants to go 'toe-to-toe, eyeball-to-eyeball' with me."

I get a mental picture of the fight scene in Rocky IV.

ZSB said...

Aw, man... I miss that wacky, self-promoting Libertarian anarchist guy. He added a LOT to the conversation.

Here's a blog entry I wrote about it:
http://twelve60.blogspot.com/justkidding

DJP said...

LOL

(I also thought at first you said that he added a ZOT to the conversation; I wasn't going to argue)

Chad V. said...

Kevin

I'm rather amused that someone who thinks that the bible says we should abolished organized governments is running for congress. That pretty much says it all.

No one wants to be your pastor you say, Well, that's not a big surprise. Since pastors are given to edify the church and instruct them in the scriptures you seem to think that it's your job to teach pastors. So as it's already been pointed out here you are unwilling to be taught but think rather that you should teach, not only that but teach those whom you need to listen to.

I wonder how law school would have been for you if you thought that it was your job to teach your professors about the law rather than be taught by them.

Anyway, I'm very interested to see you interact with Dan's post.

Dustin said...

One thing that may not have been considered, is the small portion of the population that has little social skills and perhaps social phobias. It can be extremely difficult to attend a church by your self.

I came out of being raised in a charismatic, social gospel kinda church several years ago. I cannot see how it would have been a good thing for me stay and be pastored in such a superficial church. I just decided one day I was never going back - I felt is was even more harmful than having no church.

Unfortunately I have no friends and all my family relations are wrapped up in that type of church, where Christ and the gospel is not the center. I tried going to their churches a couple times as they have since gone to different ones, but of the same type.

I tried going to a sovereign grace baptist church twice in a row about a year ago. That took the most social guts I have ever been able to muster up in my life. Sitting alone in a back pew - the second time attending was torment. I sincerely liked that church and their preaching - I feel like if I had a friend to go with I would still go there today.

So I'm churchless now and have been that way for almost 2 years. I definitely don't want to be, and I don't recommend other people to be. Its extremely hard for me, I would make about as much social progress in new groups in 2 years as most would in 2 months. I pray I could go to a church often, it would be such a true blessing with many many spiritual gospel-centred benefits.

So I guess the moral of the story is pray for me. And also pay special attention to the loner in the back pew - it may be that he is a genuine brother - just, unfortunately, a socially inept brother.

PS. if you know of any resources for a person of my type or perhaps you are one of my type - then send me an email... typeaboutit@gmail.com

Russ said...

I have the opposite problem of unsuccessfully desperately trying to find a church!
Do any irenic Reformed folk (NOT HERE where there's no room but to me at russedav@praize.com (I have no blog)) want to offer some counsel/ advice on how far to bend Biblical standards without compromise to become a church member in a largely feel good about self fellowship
(in other words, for example
1. No book but the Bible (which is basically not opened),
2. No creed but Christ (to Whom they basically don't turn),
3. Christ unites, doctrine divides
4. blah blah shapeless feely mush shapeless feely mush
though with no Biblical text for what "christ" thing "worshipped" I'm unable to understand what the "unity" or its foundation is other than a cult mentality usually based on woefully willfully Biblically illiterate ego.
My non-negotiables are
1. God's Word as ultimate authority
a. (necessary corollary: young-earth creation, that Israel and the Church and Science unanimously believed before Darwin's compromise, any other position (including evolution bastard deist "intelligent design") using another authority as ultimate for chronology as B.B. Warfield himself did, overthrowing the Bible he claimed was "inerrant" as have most of his followers (but for John MacArthur's and D. James Kennedy's groups)
and
2. the Five Solas and TULIP (modified to TU-DefiniteAtonement-IP)
Sadly every group I've found holding #2 rejects #1, as did Warfield, causing me great discouragement.
It's not that I demand these things for fellowship (I do want to win anti-TUDIP synergists to faith in Christ versus self after all), but there is an entry fee of a common confession of faith I can't just deceitfully fudge.
Thanks,
Russ

ezekiel said...

"That's the church, that local assembly of believers where pastors lead, the Word is preached, the ordinances are observed, and discipline is carried out. Christ loved it and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). He died for it."

No, He died for me and you and all his other sons. What you refer to as a local body of believers is in fact little different from the temple in Jerusalem. The one that had self serving priests, pharisees, and tax collectors. In fact He has warned that local body of what He is going to do to it if it doesn't stop acting the same way they did. Rev 2 and 3.

Luk 18:11 The Pharisee took his stand ostentatiously and began to pray thus before and with himself: God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men--extortioners (robbers), swindlers [unrighteous in heart and life], adulterers--or even like this tax collector here.
Luk 18:12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I gain.
Luk 18:13 But the tax collector, [merely] standing at a distance, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but kept striking his breast, saying, O God, be favorable (be gracious, be merciful) to me, the especially wicked sinner that I am!
Luk 18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified (forgiven and made upright and in right standing with God), rather than the other man; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.



Mat 9:13 Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy [that is, readiness to help those in trouble] and not sacrifice and sacrificial victims. For I came not to call and invite [to repentance] the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin). [Hos. 6:6.]

Mat 12:7 And if you had only known what this saying means, I desire mercy [readiness to help, to spare, to forgive] rather than sacrifice and sacrificial victims, you would not have condemned the guiltless. [Hos. 6:6; Matt. 9:13.]

olan strickland said...

Phil: I'm amazed that anyone who had ever actually read the Bible could possibly hold some of the views Kevin espouses--and doubly amazed that he seems utterly blind to how much his posted thoughts are all about Kevin and very little about Christ. But I think it would be interesting to probe the mind of someone so thoroughly obsessed with a hatred for spiritual authority and yet who apparently thinks he is really a Christian.

That would be too dangerous an exercise. After all, the accurate description of anarchists and their certain destruction was written about long ago in God's Word - "those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation" (Jude 4) - so that in an attempt to go "toe-to-toe and eyeball-to-eyeball" the anarchist would find himself pinned to the floor, unmasked, and revealed for who he really is.

Barbara said...

If I may pop in here in response to Russ and Dustin -

I have this novella of a comment farther up in this thread that might very well help.

Also - Dustin, yes - it can be very hard for people to walk into a strange congregation alone. It may feel that you've barged into a family. People are going to be people, and unfortunately not everyone is going to be friendly to you. Once more I reference my above comment.

But not everyone was friendly to Jesus, either. His disciples met up with some unpleasant folks. Their students met up with people who hated them. Paul was constantly having to re-instruct and correct the new churches he had planted, which is why we have a New Testament. You know? Obedience is going to have its uncomfortable, unpleasant moments and I would be willing to go further and state that obedience can be painful inside - we're called to be something in the middle of something else. We're the light, the salt, we're different. One of the most painful aspects of it to me is to be surrounded by people - not just in my church, but also in my family - who bear so much unforgiveness in their hearts who show no peace at all and who have been in church all their lives and firmly believe that such a thing is not only normal, but that to expect peace and joy and love (fruits of the spirit) is just a naive delusion. So in many respects, I'm a lone ranger in my own family.

But - and here's the thing - do I want to cave in and just keep on being like me? Or do I want to be conformed to the image of Christ? This is where it gets hard. While for you it may be the discomfort of going to church alone, I have things too that make my back stiffen up and a shot of fear comes through my bones, which is where constant prayer comes in handy - to remember that we are His and He is guiding this and and I have to remember to trust Him and then let go of that rebellion - and I confess that to Him as the sin that it is, and I thank Him for showing me that branch of sin left in my heart before He prunes it off - that's what I consider these things to be. We seek Him for His strength and His wisdom - not our own. There is a way that seems right to a man but which leads to death. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. His power is made great in our weakness. He will not only enable you to obey Him, He will bless you through it. He's faithful and good and true! Trust Him!

There are many churches I can't go into and stay in either - there are too many that are obviously set up for all the wrong reasons. But there are also those that simply try to love the Lord and obey His commandments and study His word without getting all high and mighty about it. I recommend those. All too often we get this idea that we're supposed to go to church to get what we want out of it. No. We go to church for fellowship and to serve others and for all the reasons mentioned by Dan in the post, and also I believe to sanctify us, teaching us what John really means when he talks about loving the brethren and, I believe, to teach us something about genuine humility - as Christ humbled Himself for us and washed His disciples' feet. We are called to love the brethren and to lay our lives down for them, even when we don't like them very much, and even when we get a stab of fear about them.

But He has not given us a spirit of bondage again to fear, but a spirit of adoption by which we can cry, Abba, Father! Rest in your father's bosom and ask for His guidance in leading you to a congregation where you can learn to glorify Him - even if you don't agree with everybody.

MadTownGuy said...

I like most of what is in this post but I find it necessary to discuss what I believe is a serious misconception about what authority means in the context of the church, both local and universal, as I believe we’re going to see greater moves toward some really bad models of authority in the perilous times ahead.

First, full disclosure: Our family didn’t attend church for a time some 24 years ago - we were members of a local church before that and have become members at a different church where we currently live, having joined shortly after moving here about 16 years ago. We have been, and are, members of our current church for most of the 16 years.

HSAT, here’s what I see as Dan’s basic points:
1. The assembly of saints is the church
2. God gave leadership to the church to lead, preach, conduct ordinances of communion/baptism/marriage and to discipline when necessary
3. If we confess Jesus as Lord we will also commit to:
A. Attend church regularly
B. Join in church (i.e., worship)
C. participate in the ministries of the church
D. submit to the God-ordained human leadership of the church
4.If you’re not doing these things, then your confession of Christ as Lord is in question

Here are some things that I perceive as difficulties with the truths as presented:
1. Point #1 is fine and needs to be repeated as often as possible. We really do need one another.
2. The big question is what does it mean to be a leader? There are two extremes, those being a laissez-faire attitude toward life and doctrine, and the other of overweening control over minuscule details. I think the notion of ‘accountability’ has been perverted in most churches and it has caused authority to be abused to the point that it has driven people away from church. More about that to follow.
3. If we confess Jesus as Lord we will:
A. Be there in body and spirit regularly, not just occupy a pew but really relate to one another
B. Join in worship and careful study of the Word, not just in church but 24/7
C. Contribute meaningfully to the ministry of the Church, both locally and in the broader sense
D. Submit to one another out of the fear of Christ (Eph.5:21), encourage one another, hold one another up in prayer, and work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
4. If we follow Dan’s advice without also bearing in mind that our Lord prohibited the abusive exercise of authority in Matt. 20:25 (repeated in Mark 10:42 & Luke 22:25), we run the risk of blind subjection to human whim. That’s not a good thing. And I’ve heard an awful lot of ‘heavy shepherding’ types excuse their behavior by claiming to be servant-leaders. Not so. But I think the real truth here is that we are to be subject to one another out of the fear of the Lord, and in so doing we keep each other honest and on the right track; I also think that church discipline is meant to be exercised by the congregation en masse, not just by the pastor or elders. See Matt: 18:15-17.

Now on to the “more” I previously alluded to. What of churches that have good doctrine but egregious behavior toward their congregations? If you don’t believe this happens, visit the folks at SGM Survivors (http://www.sgmsurvivors.com) and see what kinds of damage CJ Mahaney and his crew hath wrought. I’ve previously posted about Sovereign Grace’s links to the New Apostolic Reformation, but when I came across this and other blogs from ‘survivors’ who got out from under the oppressive leadership I was shocked. It seems they have subscribed to the notion of apostolic succession. We actually considered moving from our church to an SGM fellowship and now I’m glad we didn’t.

So what say ye? What about the notion that we are accountable to leaders, and if we are, what does that mean? I’m not sure I have run across that particular concept in the New Testament, but there are plenty of references to the “one anothers” and how that the leaders are accountable to God with regard to how they cared for us.

Tim Brown said...

Russ:

You and me both (as well as my wife)!

We have been searching for quite a while, giving each one a few months at least. Wanna be a KJV Only Fire and Brimstone Legalist? No problem! Wanna be a Warrenite? Certainly no problem, in spades. Wanna be an "out there pentecostal"? Easily done. Dead liberal? Sure! How about a Southern Baptist Church with a pastor that tolerates homosexuality in his church? Check! Oh yeah, you can be a regular old dead liberal too!

Other than that. . ..

Tim Brown said...

Excuse me, in my last post, I referred to "dead liberal" churches twice. Consider the second reference to be "Twice dead liberal churches".

Frank Turk said...

One of the things which troubles me to no end, madtownguy, is the plea against pastors when this subject comes up. It always comes up as if the existence of lousy pastors somehow mitigates the necessary consequence of the church.

In exactly the same way that God's work called out Israel and made her a nation, and lousy priests and kings didn't mitigate the nation's responsibility to be a blessing the the nations and keep God's covenant, lousy liberal, or weak, or undereducated, or overbearing, or selfish, or stupid, or misguided, or just plain bad- in- all- flavors pastors do not mitigate or in any way change the fact and necessity of the church.

Anyone who says so simply has not read the NT. You may have said something less than what I am railing against here, but I want all readers to in some way get after this point: the faults (from foibles to sins) of your pastor(s) or elder(s) are not any more or less consequential to the existence and necessity of the church than your faults (from foibles to sins).

The church is a necessary consequence of God's grace. Don't get over it: get aligned to it. be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

MadTownGuy said...

Frank:

I understand what you’re saying here but I’m not sure you caught my point, so I’ll state it a bit more succinctly. The church is necessary to the normal Christian life, yea, not optional, and my disclosure proves up my personal commitment to that fact. But that does not excuse bad actors in positions of authority and I don’t believe the local or universal church has to settle for such behaviors in its leaders.

Here’s what happened at our local assembly: our pastor who some two years prior had moved the church from a too-small location in one part of town to a much larger locale in a new building, was called to account by the elders for some unnamed breach of discipline. We were never informed of what it was, only that the elders did not want to air anyone’s ‘dirty laundry.’ The pastor responded by submitting a letter of resignation one Saturday, only to appear in church the next day in an attempt to rescind the resignation. The elders would not allow it, and I think with good reason. So our now-former pastor left to start a new congregation a few miles down the road and there remains to this day.

Fast forward through the new pastor selection process. The new pastor came on board with only a few people (I thought them to be a bit too cranky) objecting to his views on certain subjects (Da Gifts); he was with us for twelve years. In the last three of those years he brought on an associate pastor who started preaching on subjects like positive confession and healing in the atonement. Sermons by both pastors veered more toward social gospel and “Kingdom Now” topics, and we saw quotes from the likes of C. Peter Wagner, Francis Frangipane, Chuck Pierce and others who I came to understand were promoting bad stuff. At some point it also became evident that funds allocated to certain projects in our church had been “borrowed against” to pay bills and to replace a roof that had been put on our new building section just about three years prior. When town meetings were held and these practices came into question, certain of the congregants stood up and railed against the questioners - how dare they touch God’s anointed? - and the pastors did not say them nay.

I wrote an e-mail to the pastor and elders outlining four things that I saw coming down the road based on where they appeared to be headed: spiritual elitism/authoritarianism, radical subjectivism, a wrong view of the power of the spoken word, and unity at all costs. I was assured by our senior pastor that none of those ‘aberrant’ teachings, as he put it, would be condoned.

But I wasn’t content to abandon my brothers and sisters to the misbehaviors. One of the things that I did as just an ordinary guy in the congregation was to educate some of our elders on just what I had found out about the New Apostolic Reformation. They were quite astonished as they weren’t familiar with some of the odd stuff that has been going on in the Charismatic-Pentecostal universe so as they read for themselves some of the information I had pulled together, most from primary sources, it was enough for them. I think they made wise decisions once they were armed with the facts.

A lot of people left the church as they didn’t see much hope for things to get better. Finances got worse but the new treasurer made a commitment to pay back the borrowed funds, and so we did. The senior pastor departed voluntarily about two years later, leaving the associate pastor to be our interim pastor, then hoping for a permanent position. His behaviors became more and more alarming to the elders who finally drew the line and a decision was made to hire a new ‘intentional interim’ pastor which effectively left the associate pastor without a job. That was also a difficult situation for all involved, and more people left the church.

Now we have an interim pastor who has committed to stay with us for about another 18 months while we sort out what kind of church we intend to be. Efforts are being made to reconcile those who left previously, for whatever reason, and while I have reservations that the upcoming reconciliation service could be just a Kumbaya moment and nothing more, I still pray for a good outcome.

So, in sum, while I don’t expect leaders or congregants to be faultless or foibleless - that ain’t happening to any of us, least of all me, this side of Glory - I think there are certain behaviors that are over the line and we should not allow them. We, all of us, have a responsibility to the flock of God even as we are part of it. If we can righteously change wrong behaviors in our local assembly we should always strive for that; failing that, we should still expose the ‘unfruitful deeds of darkness,’ then leave for a congregation or assembly that will do the right things and not allow abusive behavior. I think that is an important way for us to have our minds renewed, through teaching and exemplary conduct that is in line with the Word and not to human whim; and of course by the ‘one anothers’ that are so much a part of the visible communion of the saints. If you took me to mean that I was against such things I assure you that was not the case.

Stefan said...

I'm late to the show, but anyhow...

Dan: This post was great in its original form, and even better now.

Barbara: I'm really moved every time you share your testimony with us. Praise God for what He is doing through you, your pastor, and his wife at that church you've committed yourself to.

Everyday Mommy said...

9 hours and counting till I gather with the saints at our little church and feast on His Word as preached by the best shepherd I've ever had.

Great post!

Little Shepherd said...

I became a Christian about 4 years ago, and attended what I thought was a good church a lot. But somewhere along the way the leadership got into a big fight and the church pretty much dissolved, and I haven't attended anywhere regularly since, and I think it's starting to take a serious toll.

I want a new church, but I don't know how to choose one. I'm considering PCA, or maybe Reformed Baptist if I can even find one of those around here. But I don't really know how to evaluate the leadership and stuff, and the whole situation leaves me feeling a bit lost.

MadTownGuy said...

Dan:

I must add this comment because it still seems the issue of control has gone unaddressed. Your parting statements in this post were:
“But Jesus — the Lord — commands you to go to church, join in church, participate in church, and submit to the God-ordained human leadership of the church.

That's your issue. Is Jesus your Lord in reality, or in theory alone? When convenient, or no? Are your ego and control-issues the boundary of His Lordship?

See you in church.”


But by failing to include the caveat that we are to be on guard against abuses of human authority, you do your audience - especially those you intend to reach - a disservice by either ignoring the injuries they have already suffered or by potentially subjecting them to new ones. There are ego and control issues with leaders, too, and they are at least as destructive as the ones that plague us as congregants. Those pastors who abuse their God-given authority usurp Jesus’ Lordship and that is a very perilous thing.

Ray Stedman wrote an excellent article on this very issue which you may peruse here. Here is a pastor making the same points I personally had discovered, more by trial and error, but in his case quite clearly by diligent study.

Let me reiterate: if by encouraging people to attend church and to be in uncritical subjection to God-ordained authority you unwittingly place them in abusive situations, you have done them no favor. I’m not against belonging to and participating in a local church - I hope I’ve already made that clear - but we must always be mindful of the perils attendant. I would like to see a blogpost that gives some guidance on how to select a healthy church (or, alternatively, how to help your fellowship become or remain healthy). I’ll stay tuned.

DJP said...

Thanks for your thoughts, but you're mistaken.

First, not every post is about everything. The fact that a post isn't about something else is not a flaw. This is not a post about how to pick a church. In a way, you could say that virtually every other post at this blog bears on that issue.

Second, the entire point of the post is that the Bible makes it clear that a Christian must be, is commanded to, is morally obliged to be involved in a local assembly.

Third, not one contrary reaction has even touched that point, which was made at length from Scripture.

Fourth and most germane to your comment: other people's sins are never an excuse for my sin.

VERITAS said...

Dan said: "But Jesus — the Lord — commands you to 1) go to church, 2) join in church, 3) participate in church, and 4) submit to the God-ordained human leadership of the church." [numbered points added for emphasis]

My pastor sent me this link in an email after I didn't attend a business meeting on Wednesday night, not being a member. I attend a small church that I grew up in - although I was saved while apart from that congregation - and my pastor and I have discussed the fact that I don't see some formal church membership ritual (established or prescribed procedure) as necessary for inclusion in the body of Christ/in the church in Scripture.

I'm a genealogy nut, so the closest thing that I even see to it is the various mention of names of folks that were at local churches in the New Covenant and the shadow of that being the enumeration/census of folks in the Old Covenant. That God's people are a community/kingdom and are known to one another. But there are obvious disconnects.

My problem with what Dan said above was 1) where does The Lord command His people to go to church? We (the Trevors of this world) are His church and we "assemble" (to use his word), but the word ekklesia comes from the root "to call" and while we are an assembled group before Him "where two or three are gathered (synagogued) together in [His] Name, there [He] is in the midst of them" (Matt 18:20), we are also the "called out ones" if you will (2 Cor 6:16-17).

Secondly, where does The Lord command us to join in church? HOW does this transpire and WHAT does it entail? I would agree with the points you made about being faithful to a local group including regular meeting with such, submission to the headship of local elders and pastors, but if a person does this then why does he/she need to sign on the dotted line so-to-speak? Especially if their conscience is at war with that?

Third, Dan saying "participate in church". Trevor (& Julie & Tom & Samantha) are the church. What do they have to DO to be participants? They can support missionaries like the early church did, send relief to their fellow brethren, pray for one another (and all the other one anothers as you said), celebrate The Lord's Supper together, pray for their national leaders, etc. but they already are the church they can do this in a field in China or in a barn in Scotland or in a home in Connecticut on any day of the week and still be the church.

I think too often we try to protect the idea of "doing church" instead of just being the church. I'm not trying to attack Dan or anybody here. I'm frequently profited from stuff on this blog. I guess I get tired of defending my position - especially when I'm at church whenever the doors are open - when I don't see the alternate view in Scripture.

The same word that Dan used of Christ "among" the local assemblies in Rev 1:13 is what Christ said would be true in Matt 18:20 if only 2 or 3 were gathered in His Name.

WHERE are the people of God assembled in the kingdom? Anywhere that 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name.

WHEN are they assembled? Usually on "the Lord's Day" - the first day of the week - but 1 Cor 11 & 14 talk generally about "when ye come together" and do not mention specifics. We also know Paul's teaching about specific days...

TO WHOM are they assembled? Not to a pastor or elders but to the One who bought them. It is in His Name that we are gathered.

The only things left to discover are:

FOR WHAT PURPOSE are they assembled?

and

HOW are they assembled?

The New Covenant outlines both of these in various places and ways and they are too numerous to list here. It is our job as the church to discover what is required of us before God and to obey His Commands.

I think we should explore those issues instead of trying to warm seats with people who obviously don't want to be there.

Just my two cents.

DJP said...

The trouble with your two cents is that it has every mark of being your "What I Always Like to Say About Church," very slightly adapted for this meta.

Virtually all of it was anticipated and answered in the post, with only one exception, which derives (quite understandably) from you not knowing Greek. Though ekklesia is lexically derived from ek (out) and kaleo (call), it does not mean "called out." The semantic impact is "assembly." Read Saucy, or any decent work written by someone who actually has studied Greek in the last forty years (as opposed to being able to use Strong's).

VERITAS said...

Dan, my father attended RTS and was a pastor so I know someone intimately who is well-versed in Greek. I don't see how your assertion about "assembly" negates what I said about the church being "the called out [ones]". I used the term assemble numerous times in my post. I don't disagree that the church assembles, but we are "called out" from among the world (2 Cor 6:16-17).

You may be touchy about your baby but that's no reason to attack me. After all, what about the command of The Lord that His servants should be "gentle, apt to teach, patient"? Perhaps you'll clue me in on what you meant by "What I Always Like to Say About Church". (Or do the commands of Christ to His church only extend to those who are "participating" within a local assembly - or your inner circle - and not to be extended to the church at large?)

See, now you've put ME on the defensive!