05 February 2014

Which you Allegedly Know

by Frank Turk

Dan did a great job yesterday pointing at the dog's breakfast which Donald Miller recently shared regarding his view of the local church.  However, because my hiatus is actually in large part about the local church in a very huge way for me personally, I have a few hundred words to add to the topic.

It has to get old eventually for anyone to claim they love Jesus and therefore the broad spectrum of all the people he saves BUT they can;t possibly spend time with the people God has called out together in any specific local church.  When I say "old," I mean like that vermin your cat killed and dragged under the sofa -- stinky, rotten, dead, and likely to make everyone sick.  What a complete pile of rubbish that somehow we get closer to Jesus by staying away from the object of his work and desire.

Let me start here, which is to say where the Apostle John started:
By this [that is: the sacrifice of Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit] is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4)
Right?  And just in case someone thinks that John means, "we ought to love them in theory and by some kind of epithetical formality, but not anyone personally," he also said this:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3)
Not in talk or just with words, but in deed and truth.  That is: you should do something with this love you allegedly know and receive.

What that means is this: because we know what love is in Christ's death for us, it's a necessary consequence that we actually love people.  But look at the qualifier that John makes in that statement: "He loved us first."

He loved us FIRST.

Think about how that works.  The "first" means "before we were perfect and holy."  That is: God loved us while we were still sinners.  And John's call to love is to love "brothers" -- which here means "those who have seen God and know Him.

John's call, then, is primarily (though perhaps not exclusively) to love the people in the church you are in, without regard to how perfected they are right now.

That's what causes us to understand how fraudulent the claim that one can love Jesus but not any specific local church is: John says those who cannot do this are liars, and they have never seen God.

Because I am on hiatus, and I am really up to my armpits with things related to that, that's where I'm going to leave it with you: have you seen God?  Are you not a liar?  Then love the people God loves -- not in theory or merely with words, but truly, with your stuff, and with your person.


Timothy Bertolet said...

I agree with this post but playing the devil's advocate saying: "I love God's people, that just for me means it doesn't have to be in the Sunday church service."

Not saying I agree, but just saying that is the line that gets fed.

Frank Turk said...

Tim: I am glad you asked, and in the spirit of you being merely the devil's advocate, please take all my force of words here as directed to the Devil and not you.

The short answer -- which may really be all that this glib objection requires -- is that you are not the human exception to God's rule for those he has called out into the local church. I get it that what this objection is really saying is what Miller himself has said in the follow-up post: well, the way we do church today is not sacrosanct, and really nothing like how they did it in the book of Acts. Because of this, (they say; he says) I have no obligation to, for example, show up to a "building" and "sing" "songs" or "listen" to "preaching."

The problem, of course, is not that the church in Acts didn't build church worship centers -- because I concede it: they did not. The problem is that the church in Acts, if we are to believe the end of Acts 2, devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Funny how that looks like all the things about "doing church" the deep thinkers and church jumpers don't really like.

That is: it's actually bogus to say they did "something else" in Acts when what one if recommending is actually a whole lot less than what is being described there -- and a whole lot less than our version and attempts to be faithful as those people were faithful.

To paraphrase the hip kids, I like our way of actually doing church as opposed to this other way of doing nothing.

Timothy Bertolet said...

I agree completely. Thanks for going kindly on me, like I said I was playing the devil's advocate.

It seems to me that a lot of people who don't like the way church gets done today don't actually spend a whole of lot of time thinking about what the NT church actually did.

Preaching, devoted to the Word, singing songs, hymns and spiritual songs, regularly gathering, having communion together etc. etc.

A Patriot said...


I think the way of doing Church in Acts is so much harder and so much more then what people think it was.

People want to focus on the staying at home and eating part. They miss out on the selling all they have, and giving it up part. They miss the going to the temple (CHURCH!!) part. They miss the daily part.

Now people complain about going to church once a week for 1.5 hours. Those people would really hate my church were we have Adult Sunday Schools, Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Thursday night services.

trogdor said...

I'm not the first to point out that the NT is chock full of "one another" commands like the ones discussed here. So for someone to amputate himself from the church is to declare "I fully intend to disobey the bulk of the New Testament". Which is an awfully strange follow-up to the fundamental Christian declaration "Jesus is Lord".

christianlady said...

I am glad you are pointing this out. We did leave a church based on teachings we had researched and saw that were very wrong, and though we pointed them out, we were basically told to not let the door hit us rather than being told they'd look into the things we saw. It was a time of great distress for us, and we did seek out a church home. I am glad we did rather than stop going, we had been so burned (and had wrongs of our own in the process), we could have given up. TeamPyro has always written that our teaching cannot come from internet and radio alone, that we need a local church. Considering my lack of knowledge, my own sinfulness, and my weakness, our church is not better for my discernment or knowledge. But, I will say I am better for having the body and offering to serve where I am able and useful. We have been loved, and have also been able to be useful and serve. We have found a place where the pastors teach from scripture, and where we can see the body helping one another. We just could not have run our own household church. It wasn't that bad out there for our family. I am sure someone can find some issues in our church somewhere, but I know we would be struggling on our own without it. I am blessed.

Vinod Anand S said...

Hi Frank, I am reading these series of posts on Church attendance. I have some questions regarding my situation and I am from India.

I was attending a Baptist Church in a metropolitan city one year back. It was a very good Church with strong Biblical teaching. I regularly attended the Church and also attended the Bible studies. Due to illness and I left that city and living with my parents in my home town for the past one year.

There is no strong Bible teaching Church in my hometown. The Church where I attend right now is the issue. I am acquainted with this Church sine my infancy. I was infant baptised there. It belongs to the denomination called Church of South India. It is a big Church. Attendees were close to a thousand. They believe in Trinity and the doctrinal conviction ends there. Mostly all the pastors were unbelievers (or moderate believers). I don't know how to put it better. Their term period is 5 years in a Church and after that they are transferred to another Church. Some pastors in the past often drunk when they gave sermons. Some guest speakers were drunk. There were physical fights between committee members. Many pastors swindled Church money. Many Church treasures sold Church property and swindled that money. A pastor threatened Church committee and some members like a thug. I have seen a physical fights in person inside the church campus and heard of many. One pastor was assaulted by committee members inside the Church while he was delivering sermon. One pastor was convicted of Check fraud. The Bishop was arrested for swindling millions of Rupees and cases are still pending. He was removed from that post. Our Church does not have elders. Instead of that committee members are elected using ballot system. Anybody can run for the committee and no statement of faith are needed. Fraud in voting is common during these elections and also quarrels. Many of the committee members in the past were thugs who frequented police stations. All these are to swindle money from the Church since the Church has many properties in prime location that was bought by the missionary in the past before India got Independence.

I didn't care about those things when I was an unbeliever. After becoming a believer, I yearned for good messages and good fellowship. But I was disappointed at my Church and stopped going to Church in my home town. I, then at that time didn't know that Church attendance was compulsory. There was nobody to guide me regarding this.

I didn't go to this Church for the past one year. But started to go to this Church for the past one month after hearing the current pastor is the best pastor in my Church for a long period of time. I am not sure if he is a believer or not. I have never seen any believer in my Church. Our Church is also influenced by charismatic prosperity teachers. Churches in India are mostly corrupt and filled with prosperity doctrines. They are mainly influenced by the prosperity preachers of US. It is very hard to find a faithful Church.

Such is the situation in my hometown, what is my duty now?

Robert said...

How can one pray for and submit to elders if they aren't in a church? Who exactly are we trying to be unified with? Jesus talked about those who only loved their friends and it wasn't in an approving manner.

I think people would benefit more from reading womething like "The Cost of Discipleship" and trying to come to grips with what actually following Jesus looks like instead of settling for the drivel that comes from people like Miller. Of course, that goes against our fallen, sinful nature and actually requires doing something different.

The thing is, most of our worries about how hard things are go away when we just focus on following Jesus and His Word instead of being caught up in self-concern. That is what the church model from Acts was all about, too. That is why they were selling possessions and taking care of each other. It certainly wasn't because they were worried about how horrible everybody else was. They were just grateful for salvation and wanted to show genuine Christian love for other believers. This narcisstic westernized culture where everybody wants to do what is right in their own eyes reminds me a lot of the climate during the book of Judges more than anything I see from the church in Acts. That's just my opinion, though.

Frank Turk said...

Vinod -

Your duty is to join a local church, not a forgery.

That problem is a complicated problem, because I think that even that church which is mostly unbelievers probably has some believers in it.

Some useful pointer here.