Category Archives: Discipleship

What Causes Factions in the Church?

This is a question that has cropped up in my recent studies and readings on the topic of unity vs. uniformity and the larger question of why the church is in such bad shape today.

What causes faction, fracturing, splintering, denominations, etc. in the body of Christ gathered (normally thought of as the local church building and those who gather there)?  I can answer this question with one word: immaturity.  So many of my brothers and sisters in the organized church, for lack of better terms, are so wrapped up into being right (right doctrine, theology, church practice, etc.) that their identity and security has become their opinion of what the Bible says.  Their opinion is based on what they have grown up with, or what those they look up to (oh, let’s say, Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or Christ! 1 Cor 1 sound familiar?) say they should believe.  Most often it is a belief built off of tradition and, in many cases, a faulty understanding of scripture text.

But, nonetheless, all of the segmenting, fracturing, divisions, strifes, etc. are because true believers in the church are too immature or they are not believers at all.  Keeping this simple and to the point, though, most problems found in the church are due to immaturity.  Think about it.  We separate from other professing believers because they don’t believe exactly the way we do.  Let me paint a typical picture (based off of how I grew up in the faith).

I was saved, meaning I came to believe in Jesus and redemption in Him alone.  My whole life changed.  I became associated with a Southern Baptist church because my best friend was one and his wife invited my wife and so off we went.  We were accepted and made one of the family by being baptized and becoming  a “formal” member of that local church.  We were taught many things such as tithing, attendance, participation, sacrifice, along with what the Bible and Southern Baptists said about these things.  We came to find out that the Southern Baptists even had a confession called the Baptist Faith and Message.  Eventually we were told that we should believe these things, or in this manner, to be “united” with all other Southern Baptists.  As time went by, and I became a teacher and pastor, I saw what happened to those people who came and did not believe the way we did.  They were told they would be welcome to attend and participate in worship with us, give money to support us, and more.  But, unless they became a member and believed the confession of faith, they would never be trusted to teach in the church, hold church sanctioned bible studies, become a leader, and the like.  Why?  The reason always given was because without membership and believing the same way, a person could go off the rails and teach something heretical and not be accountable to the church for it.  I could draw this out in more detail, but I think you get the picture.  If you need clarification, either comment below or email me and I will give you all the clarification you need.

So, can you see how division would occur in these types of situations?  People with different beliefs coming in to the local church and being pushed away or turned away simply because they do not believe in someone’s opinion of biblical things.  And the people doing the pushing away find their identity in those specific traditions and beliefs espoused by that one church and their security is cemented the longer they attend and the more involved they get.  Can you guess what happens when that belief held by those in that particular local Southern Baptist church (following the example above) is challenged by an outsider from another denomination or faith tradition in Christianity?  A separation occurs.  Immaturity rears its head and estranges one group from the next.  Those with tightly held like beliefs herd together and keep all others out.  Is this what Christ came to instill?  Is this what Paul taught in 1 Corinthians or Ephesians?  NO!

To make this short, let me close with this.  Once we stop making every point of our intricate doctrine (where typically our identity and security is wrapped up)  the test for whether someone is “in Christ” or “of Christ” then we have a chance of being mature and acting in love towards not only our brothers and sister in Christ, but also exercising love for our neighbors as ourselves.  The world will see our unity and our love for each other  as they should see it (See 1 John)  I challenge all my readers and anyone they may speak to about this issue to begin to ask the question, “Am I the one that is acting out of immaturity in my church and thereby being a cause or a sustainer of division, or am I willing to change and help others change so we can be united in Christ?”  Make sure your identity and security is in Christ alone, not in traditions or other peoples’ beliefs about what the scriptures say.

As always, since I am very prone to not being completely understood in what I write, feel free to ask me questions about what I mean here or ask me to clarify what I am saying.  Let’s communicate on this important issue.  Send me your comments and let us be as iron sharpening iron!

Blessings to you!

Craig

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Filed under Church, Discipleship, God's Love, Understanding the Bible

Poke holes in this theology!

“God is love, and if you don’t believe it He will burn you in Hell for all eternity.”

I read this on a Facebook page I subscribe to, and it was written by John Smith.  I pose this to you, my readers: Is this the God you worship and, if so, defend this belief with all you got.  A friendly challenge for you.  If your theology says my theology is wrong, then you MUST defend this statement because in my previous belief system (reformed theology, in the Baptist tradition) this had to be true.  Let us learn together to understand the God we worship as brothers and sisters in the Lord and help one another to serve Him best.  Blessings to you, especially those who write in with their defense of the statement above!

In Christ’s love!

Craig

P.S.  If you would like the link to this Facebook page, simply comment back requesting the link.  Thanks!

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Does Your Doctrine Help You Obey Christ?

I have been thinking about this question for the last two years or so.  I have written a little about how (or maybe simply that) my doctrine has changed since I became a Christian in 1991.  I started out believing in Arminian theology (though I had no idea what that even meant for many years!) and held that view for about 12 years or so.  Then, as I began to be faced with more and more complex biblical counseling issues and having to give answers from the Bible about how to deal with these issues, I realized that psychology was not the answer since it did not depend on the Word.  I then realized that most Arminian theology (for lack of a better way to put it, mainstream Christianity, at least around me for many years) bought into “Christian” psychology for the most part and whenever I asked my Arminian brothers and other pastors of the same belief system, they all (except one!) said to leave counseling to the professionals, meaning to psychologists or psychiatrists, whether Christian or not.  This was not an option for me!

So, as I asked around, one pastor I served with told me to check into the biblical counseling movement and the Biblical Counseling Center in Arlington Heights, IL (I believe this is correct!).  Well this was an hours’ drive north from where we lived so off I went.  To make a long story short, through much study, research, and reading thousands of pages and 50+ books (biblical counseling books which then led directly to books on reformed theology or Calvinism), I began to believe in reformed theology or Calvinism.  I spent the next 10 or so years studying  that doctrine and feeling assured I had finally unlocked the keys yo the biblical text!  But, through all of this, there was still a few nagging questions that no one could answer to my satisfaction and it bugged me to no end.  One question was:  What really is the Gospel, what is the minimum that one must believe/do to be saved?  Another was:  What do I have to obey in the Bible, or what is obedience and what does it look like?

Then, the question in the title of this post came into play a few years ago as my theology was once again being re-formed (not reformed, get it?).  I have for so many years now believed that the height of Christianity was having and holding to right doctrine and that there was no more important thing for a Christian to be concerned about.  That is why it was hard for me to relate to a “feel-good Gospel,” or a more feelings-based faith system.  It was to subjective in my estimation, and I wanted as much objectivity as possible because that was the way to “real” truth.  So, in my mind, and as near as I can tell, the minds of most of those I hung with, right doctrine was the ONLY way to obey Christ!  Right doctrine was the only path that lead to total obedience to all that Christ commanded.

But today, I ask this question, and really do expect replies from those Arminians or Calvinists who would try to explain to me how holding their doctrine (Arminianism or Calvinism,  synergism or monergism) can help me obey Christ.  Let me help you to understand where I am at and where I am coming from now.  Please explain to me how your doctrine will help me practice loving my neighbor more, my family more, and God more?  How will it help me be more kind to people?  How will doctrine help me not kill someone?  How will it keep me from being selfish or help me to have more self-control?  Let me get to my point, in case you are missing it.  Does right doctrine ACTUALLY do anything for me to make me more like Christ?  Or, as I read the plain words of Christ, can I merely choose to obey and become more like Him?  If I read in Jesus’ teachings to love my neighbor as I love myself, can I merely look at the ways I love myself and then love my neighbor in ways like that?  Or, do I need to study doctrine more to “cause” me to love my neighbor more?

My belief is that right doctrine may make me feel better about my relationship to God and help me understand the Bible better, but it will NEVER help me obey Christ!  The only thing that will help me obey Christ is actually OBEYING  Christ.  In other words, when Christ says don’t steal, but work for what I need, that is what I do.  I do not need to make sure I understand the kenosis, or the hupostatic union (hypo static if it makes you feel better!) or how the church is to be united.  I must simply obey.  I must go and do what is commanded, not hold a conference on Calvinism/Arminianism and then debate my detractors to prove how wrong they are.  No, I need to love Christ enough to, like a little child, go and obey what He says.

This got longer than I intended, but truly, I welcome your comments and if you have them, answers to the question(s) posed here today.  I especially put out the challenge to the Calvinists or Arminians who may be reading this blog (I know you are out there!) to not be shy.  Jump in here and let me know what you think.  If you truly care about others who have different views than you and are your brothers/sisters int eh Lord, you will be concerned that we know, I know, where I am going astray or where I am correct and need to press on and help others with my knowledge.  Silence speaks volumes, you know what I mean?

Anyway, blessings to you in Christ our Lord!

Craig

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How Much Will You Pay To Keep Someone From Hell?

As I have been reading lately for some of the posts I have put up, I was reminded of a thought that had troubled me for a long time.  As I lead congregations as a solo pastor, I found that most Christians talked about missions and were very adamant about funding missions, all with the hopes of seeing someone rescued from the clutches of hell and brought to the gates of heaven (salvation).  The thought that has troubled me is that we don’t see any disciples of Christ today like the first ones during Jesus’ ministry.  The apostles gave up there livelihoods, their fortunes, even their families, to go and follow Jesus.  Many of the disciples that followed Jesus around gave up much as well.  I have not seen that kind of commitment in the traditional church today.

If we understand how horrible hell is, how long people  will be there, how could we not give every cent  we have, every minute of our lives, every resource we could find, to keep even one person from going there?   How can we spend one more minute not sharing the message, the Gospel, with every single person we can?  I have had, and seen in others, an attitude that says that we just don’t care that much about the lost.  I say that because everyone supposedly “knows” how bad hell is.  And if that is the case, and we aren’t spending everything we have, and are to rescue people from going there, how can we say we know what hell will be like, biblically speaking (biblically defined)?  How can we say that we are burdened for the lost if we are not willing to give our ALL?  Do you share my previous concern?

Well, let me back away from this a bit, since I am no longer of the camp that espouses the concept of eternal conscious torment.  Briefly, I believe that hell is a place of punishment geared toward restoration, not retribution/vengeance for all eternity.  In later posts, I will explain more fully what I believe the Bible says about heaven and hell, about witnessing, missions, etc.  But for now, I will leave things here for you to contemplate, those of you who still hold to the traditional view of hell as described above.

For all the billions of dollars spent every year by Christians for mission work to save souls, I still don’t see much sacrifice going on.  Christians still attend their fancy buildings, in fancy clothes, transported there by fancy vehicles.  And yet, less and less people are getting saved every year and less and less church attendance is registered, which would seem to say that hell is winning the battle!

What are your thoughts?   Is the picture I painted accurate or off-base?  Are you giving everything you have and are you burdened for the lost?  Do you believe that God/Jesus wants you to give every single thing you have to witness to the lost?  Or, do you see something different in the Bible that we need to catch on to? These are difficult questions to answer.  Let’s reason together about this topic!

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Filed under Discipleship, Hell, Universal salvation

Overcome Evil With Good?

Wow!  This must be one of the biggest lies ever told!  I have read the beginning few pages of this article by Ken Eckerty Exposing The Greatest Lie Ever Told. 

(Thanks to Dirk Moll for pointing me to this article!)

Here is one of four questions he asks:  How can we overcome evil with good if God can’t do the same? 

This question refers to Paul’s teaching in Romans 12:21.  I am reasonably sure that most of you have not contemplated that question before.  But, it is a very important question and one that deserves our time and attention.  I would go further and say that before you do one more “thing” for God, before you do one more act of ministry for your church, pastor, friends, etc., you need to answer this question for yourself.

If this offends your sensibilities, don’t feel alone.  It has been an offense to me, but more accurately not to me, but to my previous traditional beliefs.  I don’t take this (or these) type(s) of questions personally any more.  I am now willing to be challenged by them and to learn from them, because I know, when the truth is found, I will be more capable and more able and more willing to worship God and to glorify His magnificence!  This is why I CHOOSE not to hang out with those who lie and confuse the truth.  I am a truth seeker and liars do not have the truth in them.

Let me know what you think of the question and the article if you get a chance to read it.  As always, blessings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

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Why Don’t Believers Read Their Bibles More?

Just a short post to stimulate some thought.  What prevents you from reading your Bible more?  Some of my anecdotal evidence indicates that many believers don’t read their bibles more  (or at all!) because of what I will call an intimidation factor.  When people read the Bible for themselves and come to some understanding, but then go to “church” and hear that their understanding is wrong (infantile, they are put down, demeaned, made to feel small, weak or just plain stupid) they eventually end up not reading their Bible.  Most of the people I have asked about this issue have said they just resigned themselves to believe whatever their pastor, Sunday School teacher, etc. believe.   Some of the rationale for this is that their leaders have been to school and they haven’t, or the leaders have studied more and understand better than they do, or the leaders always have so much more insight than they do and even though they come to a different understanding of the Bible verse (passage) than their leaders, they must be wrong because their views are not the same as their leaders.

What I have faced from these people is a near total discouragement in getting close to God on their own, so they rely heavily, if not solely, on the faith and belief of those around them.  When asked what they believe about any doctrine, they merely rattle off some scholar, theologian, or pastors’ belief and say, “that’s what I believe.”

Curious, I now ask, what is your experience ?  Have you experienced people like this or attitudes/ reasons like these?

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