Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Dis-organized Church

This is a day in which people are leaving what they mockingly describe as "organized religion" in favour of loosely organized gatherings of a spiritual nature. While I am not in favour of all that takes place under the banner of the established church today, this recent phenomenon is a step backward for the cause of Christ. There is much to be said, but let's briefly consider some thoughts about this topic.

In general, the dis-organized church is made up of groups of people meeting here and there with no real leadership, doctrine, or practice. They tend to talk a lot about Jesus, love, and social action, and they closely follow Christian pop-culture.

1. The dis-organized church tends to be made up of disgruntled people from a variety of local organized churches. Yes, unfortunately it is true. People that are happy in their home church don't leave in search of the dis-organized church. Instead of encouraging these wandering souls to go back to their church (assuming it was a Bible teaching church) and make things right, the dis-organized church unethically latches onto these lost sheep even while their shepherds (pastors) are seeking their restoration. As a result, the disorganized church has a higher incidence of negativity, bitterness, and unresolved issues.

2. The dis-organized church is dependent upon the organized church. Generally, the groups that make up the dis-organized church have no building for funerals, few (if any) Biblically competent leaders, and no resources of their own for such things as camp ministries, counselling, book publishing, schools and colleges. The unethical practice of taking resources from the organized church while walking away from and defaming it is an issue that the dis-organized church must face.

3. The dis-organized church tends to attract leaders that have had difficulties in the organized church. Sometimes they have been injured by the very people they cared for and are looking for a place to heal. For those in this situation I have great sympathy, but there is a better way. Others have themselves caused pain and injured former ministries within the organized church, and for this reason are not fit at this time to lead. Whatever the reason, the disorganized church tends to have little or no Biblically qualified, competent, and steady leadership.

4. The dis-organized church in general has little if any emphasis on the preaching of the Word of God. Usually one of two things happen. Either an emphasis placed on worship (read this "music") and dialogue about Jesus (not the totality of Scripture), or they find high profile preachers and teachers on the internet and follow them in a haphazard fashion.

5. The dis-organized church accomplishes little in the areas of ministry and evangelism. This is a function of their aversion to organization. If there is no sense of a larger mission for the group that everyone is expected to embrace and sacrifices to achieve, there will be much talk but little accomplished for the cause of Christ. Results come from organized effort.

6. The dis-organized church has trouble with balance. Because the dis-organized church has a hatred for leadership it gets blown around a lot. The group gets caught up in each new wave of spiritual fads that come from a cultural Christian commericalism. Each new book, blog, or teaching series affords a new tangent for the group to persue. Rather than being steadied by a broad doctrinal base, the group is found to be rushing about madly in all directions.

7. The dis-organized church is missing key aspects of what constitutes a New Testament church.

Authority - The New Testament model of church planting is that of established churches birthing new churches by means of men selected by the Holy Spirit, commissioned, and sent out under the authority of the already established "mother" church. Churches give birth to churches. Much hurt has come from church splits and rogue preachers trying to start their own church without the support, endorsement, and foundation of an established congregation.

Doctrinal Agreement - A church is more than a group of people assembled. Those people have to be agreed on some basics in doctrine, otherwise the gathering is no more than a spirit themed party. Doctrine is the backbone of the church. Love is the hands attached to that skeleton. To get those backward is to truly put the cart before the horse.

|Discipline - The New Testament shows us that part of the body life of a church is accountability and discipline. Scriptures lay out the ground rules for this aspect of the church. In general, however, the dis-organized church is full of people who are there because they would not make themselves accountable to spiritual leadership and discipline. The dis-organized church is not the maverick new movement it pretends to be, but rather it is a movement of passive, self-focused rebellion against spiritual authority, structure, expectations, accountability, and discipline.

8. The dis-organized church has a best-before date stamp on it. In most cases, if not all, the dis-organized church is demographic specific. Most times those who are taking part are in the twenty to forty age bracket. For many reasons (that we will address in another blog post) the demographic specific church does not have longevity.

My conclusion is simple. Although many (because of their complaints about the organized church) love the idea of striking out on their own and having a loose, non-committal, spiritual gathering each week. This does not constitute a Biblical church. It may be properly called a Bible Study, Prayer Meeting, or Spiritual Gathering, (All these terms are very generous labels given what generally takes place at these events.) but to call this kind of gathering a church is Biblically inaccurate. Simply put, the dis-organized church is not a church in the Biblical sense.

What is a Biblical definition of a church? A church is a group of born again, baptized believers who voluntarily associate and  assemble under Biblical authority, leadership, doctrine, and discipline for the purpose of building each other up in the faith, observing the ordinances of baptism and communion, and  proclaiming the Gospel worldwide.

(DISCLAIMER: I am not in this post referring to the house-church. There are house churches, that are engaging the whole of Scripture, meet the benchmark to be a Biblical church, and are actively trying to share the Gospel. I am thankful for those who are making these efforts. Many, if not most of our present, established churches began in this fashion.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What Do We Lose (Part 2) if Christianity Makes Room for Darwinism - Evolution

What do we lose if we make room for evolution? Let's continue...

If there was no creation, then there can be no redemption. Redemption is a precious doctrine. It says that God owned us by means of creating us. After the fall of man, He bought us back (redeemed) us from the grip and ownership of Satan, of our sin, and its penalty, Hell. Simply put, God can't buy back (redeem) that which He hadn't previously owned. If God didn't create it, He doesn't own it. The cost of our redemption was the blood of Jesus. Without creation and the ownership that God derived from it, redemption by definition would be impossible and the blood of Jesus, pointless.

If there was no creation, then the account of Adam and Eve falls into question. If part of the account is inaccurate or incomplete, none of it can be trusted. The problem is, there are doctrines buried in those few chapters that are foundational to the essence of Christianity, the Gospel, and our own personal salvation. Let's take them one at a time.

Origin of Sin -- The Bible tells us that sin originated with Adam and Eve in the garden. With the veracity of this account called into question, we ask ourselves, "Where did sin come from?"

Sin Nature -- Evolution would contend that man at his core is good and righteous and given the perfect environment he would never do wrong. (Though, as we have discussed, Darwinism obliterates the moral foundations of society. Without a creator to set rules for the created, who is to say what is right or wrong?) The Garden of Eden account tells us that man's goodness is directly related to his fellowship with the Creator, and when that relationship is broken (in the fall, Adam's sin) then man cannot stay good no matter the environment. Sin became part of man's nature, deeply embedded from the time of conception. This is the sin nature passed down from Adam through the generations. We are sinners by nature, it is who we are. Thus, we cannot properly understand mankind's basic nature if we through evolutionary theory hold the account of Adam and Eve in question. Moreover, if we evolved, then we do not have a sin nature and all of our "sins" (Again, who is to say what a sin is in the absence of a creator?) can be blamed on environment. If I am not a sinner by reason of having my environment to blame for my misdeeds, then I do not need a Saviour and Jesus' death was worse than a waste.

Marriage -- In this day of attempts to redefine marriage another assault is taking place upon the foundation of the marriage narrative. The early chapters of Genesis make clear that God sanctioned marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman for a lifetime. It also shows how God wanted each spouse to operate within that framework. However, if creation is a myth and the first part of Genesis may or may not be reliable, then the institution of marriage loses its very foundation and is open to societal reinterpretation.  And, by the way, Jesus would have been way off the mark in his comments on Moses' writing of divorcement.

Protevangelium -- The first reference to a future Messiah who comes from the seed of the woman (Eve and eventually Mary) and is victorious over the serpent (satan) is recorded in these chapters setting the stage for the next four thousand years of human history.

Substitutionary Atonement and the Impotence of Man's Efforts -- When Adam and Eve discovered that they were naked they made aprons of fig leaves. In the symbolism of the Bible this refers to man's good works to covert his sin and obtain God's favour. For God, this was not enough. The covering of sin would require a life to be sacrificed and its blood to be shed as a substitute. God beautifully demonstrated this in making Adam and Eve coats of animal skins for their covering. This perfect picture of Christ's substitutionary sacrifice is lost to the uncertainty of the accuracy of the text stemming from evolutionary thought.

Penalty of Sin -- Because Adam sinned, God had to kick him out of the garden, he had to work harder, and his body began the slow march toward death. Without this account we would not know that sin has consequences. Without consequences for sin, why do we need a Saviour? Without consequences, what use is Jesus' sacrifice? 

There is so much essential truth that we lose if we sell faith in an all powerful Creator for the mess of pottage that is evolutionary thought or even so called theistic evolution. Simply put, either an all powerful God created just as the Bible describes, or evolution took place at some time and in some form. If evolution occurred, Christianity is a good moral system at best and at worst, a sham with no logical foundation. Christianity as we know it ceases to be without a literal, six day, twenty-four hour day creation. Everything that Christianity claims to be hangs on the veracity of the first few chapters of Genesis

What Do We Lose (Part 1) if Christianity Makes Room for Darwinism - Evolution

Okay, here is the deal. There are those within broader Christian circles today who want to make allowances for modern scientific theory and choose to embrace evolutionary thought. There are educational institutions that heavily promote this theory (evolution) to the complete neglect of any other plausible explanation of the earth's origins; namely, creation. Because of this, there are thousands of people, even Christians, who have not taken the time to examine the equal and abundant evidence pointing toward creation.  To add more chaos to this mix, the theories abound that attempt to squeeze Darwinism into the Bible in order to satisfy those who are conflicted between their faith and the "facts" about the earth's origin which they have been taught. These include the Day Age Theory and the Gap Theory.

Here is my problem. If you start messing around with the first chapters of Genesis; if you read into Scriptures what you like in order to match current theories and thought, how can you then say with certainty what is true in those chapters and what is not? If some of Genesis cannot be taken as literal truth, then none of it can be credible. In short, we will explore the fact that you run the risk of losing core Christian doctrine if you are willing to put the first chapters of Genesis up for interpretation and negotiation. Let's examine a few.

If there was no creation, than there is no Creator. Sounds simple doesn't it? If God didn't create the world, than we have no need for Him. We need God. We need something bigger than us. But if God is incapable of creating the world around us, then He is no longer OMNIPOTENT. If God is not all powerful, then He is limited. If God has limits to His power, then can we really depend upon Him? Of course not. If God is not OMNIPOTENT, is He really God at all? Not the God that we know. Certainly, a God that has limited power is not the God of the Bible. And so we come to the sad realization that if God is not the Creator, than He is a different god than the One that we have come to know through the pages of the Bible. We have, in denying his OMNIPOTENCE by means of Darwinistic editing of the Genesis account, created a god of our own imagination ; a weak and incapable god; a god that does not deserve our admiration or praise; an idol designed to soothe our Christian sensibilities while evolutionary theory and modern science, not the Word of God, becomes our foremost authority.

If there was no creation and there is no Creator, then we are not responsible to anyone. The Bible's depiction of man's relationship with God is one of accountability as a result of ownership derived from the act of creation. If God made it, He owns it. If there was no creation, then man is not responsible to a creator (God). If we are not accountable to God, we can behave however we like and no one can say a word because there is no moral basis for law and conduct. Without a creator to give the rules, everyone's opinion is valid as truth, there is no right and wrong, and there is no moral foundation for society.