Monday, March 22, 2010

Did God Really Say That?

After a nearly full day in court last Thursday, I am ready to be a lawyer - for Jesus! Not that Jesus needs my help, or defense skills. One of the things that intrigues me about the Bible is that so many folks do not appear to have read the Best Selling Book of All Time! Ouch! Therefore; I suspect that there are some things that they don't know about God.

It's true that most Christians have never read the entire Bible, and readership is dropping quickly. HERE are the stats.

But I don't really want to talk about the Bible today. I want to talk about what's NOT in the Bible. Here's a list of stuff that people seem to accept as members of Team Jesus, that are quite possibly man made traditions. To view them as "requirements" and " biblical mandates," they can certainly get us off track.

Church Membership - If you are a Christian by faith in Jesus, you are a member of an eternal order of saints - umm you'll spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus. Look, there are a lot of wise men telling us we need to sign up, belong, take memberships classes etc. There is no biblical precedent for it. Just because people gathered together in the New Testament, doesn't mean they "signed up" or signed bylaws or pledge cards. Membership forces those who want to belong to "agree" with the governing body, or local church.

If you want to commit your tithes and offerings to a church because you feel led, or have your name in a church directory, I say go for it. Giving and relationship are excellent expressions of biblical Christianity! On the contrary, if you you are required or forced to take certain classes to become a member, I say run for your life.

Don't hear what I am not saying. It is good to know what your church is all about; what their vision is, their passion, who the leaders are and what ministries are available to you, and where you can get involved. Information is good, especially when you are new.

Having requirements for membership is wrong. I have seen churches where you must agree to things like no woman in ministry, tithing and other requirements that you may not agree with. Is the church afraid that you are going to embarrass them if you aren't saved? How do they know anyway?

Isn't having faith in Jesus enough to be a Christian?

Church Bylaws and Charters - These can get a little shady. Bylaws are often mans way of putting God in a box, and maintaining control. I understand that they are an attempt to embody a religious institution's so called "statement of faith." My experience is they seem to produce ineffective committees and voting on certain issues.

Wouldn't you agree, that the Bible is the ONLY authoritative text for the church?

The bottom line, is READ THEM. My experience, with even some very good churches, is that there are some issues lurking in the file cabinet that just might be man made rules. How to choose a new pastor, search committees, church discipline, moral failure, administrative tasks, finances, banking ad nauseum. Most bylaws reiterate and condense biblical mandates, but not always.

Agreeing to a creed, such as the Nicene Creed or Apostles Creed is simply stating faith in biblical principals. There is nothing wrong with statements of faith, outlining certain beliefs and principals that a church upholds. I just don't think that I would sign and date one.

I also realize that there are some legal documents required to operate church, the favored one in the 501(c)3 tax exempt status. Even this, can limit expression of true faith in some cases. It does not allow pastors to preach or endorse any candidates for elections, for example. In the state of Massachusetts licensed ministers had to fill out a questionnaire regarding their stance on gay marriage.

It is easy to lose focus on biblical principals.

Requirements for Leaders - There are a couple of lists in the Bible that pertain to the qualities of leaders. I have to say they are pretty lofty, why would we need any extras?

1 Timothy 3
- 1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money . . .

Titus 1:5-12 - An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. . .

Pastoral Authority - Out of the Vineyard movement can a "one man, one vision" as opposed to a Presbyterian type of church government. The pastor, a central figure in every local church has been turned into somewhat of a CEO. I am not so sure this was the original intention, for one man to rule the local church, overseeing a board of elders.

Ephesians 4:11 is pretty clear about what the church is all about. (I have written about it a lot HERE.) And even in that, some try to make an apostle a CEO over the pastor/VPs of local congregations. I'm sorry, the corporate view of church is wrong. I see the 5 roles outlined in the above text as co-equals. They work together to bring in the harvest and provide care and feeding for the local congregation.

One would then ask the question, who has the last say if there are 5 co-equals? God!

Para-Church Ministries - No where in the Bible is there a ministry that is not connected to a church. No where. The problem with non-church or para church ministries, and so called "coverings" is that believers were meant to be sent out from a church.

Christians ask, "Who is my covering?" The word covering has not generally been found in historic Christian literature, but it has been brought to people's attention through the teachings of the shepherding movement that was popular in the 1970's and 1980's.

I am sure there are many well run, and accountable non-church Christian entities. Personally, I am concerned when there is no accountability to a local pastor or leadership. There doesn't seem to be someone to confess your sins to, and all run the risk of failing because there is not a diversity in leadership, or gifting.

If we look at the 5-Fold model outlined in Ephesian chapter 4, we see the the apostles and prophets worked together to be a foundation or start up duo which would find a pastors, teachers and evangelists.

Once a church was planted and the foundation was set, these apostles and prophets would move on to a new work (and keep in touch with the old one). They were sent out from the work that was previously started.

Even the church center of Antioch, probably the most mature in the Bible, was not surrounded by satellite ministries. Those that were welcomed by the church, we are also welcomed in other locations.

And if you want to be covered, I suggest the shadow of the Almighty.

The Stand-Sit-Kneel-Music-Preach Service - I suppose the modern church service is a best of service that has turned into a formula. Christians took the best portions of a spirit-filled service and tried to recreate that in some sort of liturgy to preserve them, and in the end, to make things kind of boring.

1 Corinthians 26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

So what do you do if your services don't have tongues, prophecies and interpretations? I suppose you might want to earnestly desire them. (1 Cor 14:1)

But there are lots of other things that you can do in church.
- Shout Psalm 98
- Sing Psalm 98
- Play Music Psalm 98
- Clap Psalm 47
- Sit Luke 24:6
- Kneel Psalm 95:6
- Ask Questions Luke 24:6
- Fall into a Trance Acts 22:17
- Trumpet - 2 Chronicles 2:28
- Fall (slain) - Numbers 22:31, Judges 13:20, Ezekiel 1:28, Ezekiel 3:23, Ezekiel 43:3, Ezekiel 44:4, Daniel 8:17 and Matthew 17:6
- Pray 1 Kings 8:33

Other Authoritative Texts - The 66 books of the Bible called the canon, are it. There are no other scriptures, or sacred texts unless you have a copy of the Paul's 3rd letter to the Corinthians.

These 66 books are as authentic as you can get. Although there is a lot of controversy as mortal man tries to wrap his little mind around God breathed text. Be certain, for those the search for it like treasure (Proverbs 2), the Bible carries the very heart of God, the road to salvation and the walk of holiness. To the educated, the Scriptures are fallacy, to the logical, they defy logic, to the wicked they are a torment, to the foolish they are useless, but to he Christian, born again of water and Spirit, they are life giving, problem solving, love letters from an almighty God that answers prayer and keeps His promises.

As long as there has been Christianity, there have been Christian writers such as myself. There is nothing that we can add to the original Bible in terms of the revelation of the kingdom of God. Nothing. Christian writers are more about teaching and opening the word of God to others, as well as explaining Bible texts, and references.

Things like the Book of Mormon, books published by the Way Ministry and others are not God, and not authoritative. Period.

Buildings - Before Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity as a legal religion in 313, christian were part of a "city church." The church in Rome, or Corinth, or Ephesus for example. Sometimes they met in synagogues, and certainly they met in homes. They did not have their own legally owned buildings until that 4th century.

As anyone can plainly see, the church building has become a Christian center, and the pulpit has become and icon for the authority in church, but is it always God? What about the city church - the church at New York or the church at Boston or the church at Tacoma? Are they unified? Or has having their own building, caused the city church structure to fail?

Watchman Nee was a fan of the city church. He believed that believers should share locally with one another in every aspect of church life. Divisions are simply that, and Paul warned against them many times. He also warned against following a man, not matter who anointed he was.

Denominations - The Bible consistently describes city churches. I read a blog a while back and it said, "churches are archives for old ideas." I am not denomination bashing, but isn't that what denominations are, archives of doctrine from previous evangelists , theologians and anointed men and woman of God?

I understand they were started to preserve the revelation and worship style of the founders. They have also preserved a lot of Christian doctrine that is useful along with a some man-made traditions that are not.

I guess I just think that we have gotten very religious over the centuries, and that we could be in line to end like the Pharisees; lots of godly behavior and hearts that are far from Him.

Are you close to God? What do you need to be satisfied with your relationship with Jesus? Could you live without the Bylaws, the buildings and the denominations?

6 comments:

photogr said...

David:

Comsidering all that you said, exactly where is the churches that embrace and edifies God above all else?

I haven't seen many lately in these times. Before this last year, I had what I felt was a close and personal relationship with God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in my own way through prayer by not being affiliated with any churches.

I had been that way for about 3 years before reading thru Rick Warren advocating you were sinning if you were not affiliated with a church to have fellowship.

My experiences so far in one church has left me a bit agrivated with the way things are going ( lack of true fellowship and evidence of elitisim or click groups ). I for one have found more fellowship and loving others off the Internet sites and blogs than I have in a brick and mortar church.

"Could you live without the Bylaws, the buildings, and the denominations?"

In response to that question, the answer is a defitine "yes" untill I can find a place that trully edifies the Lord with out seat belts or fitting in the box.

I hate feeling that way but I think I have a church on the Internet and that is where I will stay.

Tony C said...

The statistics on people reading the Bible are flat scary. As Christians, I think it's perfectly okay to read the latest best selling author or hot blog, but it must be kept in context. Nobody can surpass nor transplant the Scriptures given to us by the Father.

I'm sensing a theme/trend in your recent post...or is that just me?

GCT said...

There are some other notable things that modern Xians think are in the Bible that aren't, including:

Prohibitions against slavery - slavery is actually supported in god's love letter

Equal rights for women - women are not given equal rights, even though some Xians would claim that it's part of their faith (you can "Ask Questions Luke 24:6" only if you are male)

Accurate depictions of the "creation" of the universe - some Xians claim that the Bible has the correct science when it, in fact, does not

Prohibitions on wiping out other races and cultures - it's pretty prevalent in the Bible which is supposedly god-breathed

And, I'm sure there are others that I just don't have off the top of my head...

GCT said...

Just read the link...wow...

"Rhodes says such statistics make it more than obvious why many Christians are easy prey for spiritual deception."

Yes. If more people actually read the Bible they might come to find out how barbaric and non-loving it is, as opposed to the "spiritual deception" that churches use in teaching that it's a nice story.

"The level of biblical illiteracy among Christians may be one reason why many believers hesitate to stand for Godly values on the public scene."

Godly values such as stoning disobedient children and forcing rape victims to marry their attackers? I would think that people hesitate to stand up for those things because they aren't moral positions.

David said...

@GCT - well, I have limited time to answer, but Jesus came to fulfill the laws of the Old Testament. Because He did that we are no longer under the law, and all that went on with that. He said love you God, and love your neighbor - turn the other cheek.

Your claims of violence may be historical, but they are not the Christian message of love.

And you previous claims of assault (maybe according to a law in your state) are unfounded. Jesus use the whip to clear the animals from the temple. He did turn over the tables, and as a Jewish teacher under the law, cleansing the temple was legal.

I am sure you'll point to some that claimed to be a Christian and did something violent - I read the Book, they are wrong.

Read Romans chapter 8.

GCT said...

David,
"Jesus came to fulfill the laws of the Old Testament. Because He did that we are no longer under the law, and all that went on with that."

What does it mean to "fulfill a law?" If you listen to the sermon on the mount, Jesus isn't saying that one should ignore the laws, but hold to them even more strictly. He never claims that you aren't held to the laws, and even later this is apparent when Paul is having discussions about whether they can gain more converts by relaxing the dietary laws or not.

"Your claims of violence may be historical, but they are not the Christian message of love."

They are not repudiated. Where is this Xian message of love? Jesus does say love your neighbor (meaning fellow Jews) and love god, and maybe even turn the other cheek, but there's also quite a bit in there that contradicts those messages, and certainly the doctrine of hell is not one of love.

"And you previous claims of assault (maybe according to a law in your state) are unfounded. Jesus use the whip to clear the animals from the temple."

No, they are not unfounded. I did some checking and it seems that a few translations say that he cleared the animals, but most translations, including the literal ones claim that he cleared all from the temple with the whip.

"He did turn over the tables, and as a Jewish teacher under the law, cleansing the temple was legal."

He acted violently and committed assault. Do you think he walked in and said in a peaceful tone, "Please leave" and everyone obeyed? They obeyed because the crazy guy was gonna hurt someone.

"I am sure you'll point to some that claimed to be a Christian and did something violent - I read the Book, they are wrong."

I read the book too, and pointed out the things I pointed out. Of course, it's simple to point to any Xian you disagree with and claim that they aren't a true Xian, but that would be logically fallacious.

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