Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Unsung Heroes

This is an exciting time for our church. We are about to move into our new building in a couple of weeks after meeting in the gymnasium of an elementary school for the past 5 ½ years. This past Sunday, we took some time to reflect on the past 5 ½ years and took time to recognize the effort of those who have contributed by serving behind the scenes. These are those who are not generally in the forefront, but are really the backbone of the church. The people who are involved organizing and running the children’s ministry, the people who perform all the miscellaneous chores, including the set-up team that is responsible for arriving extra early to set up the facility so that we are able to conduct the Sunday morning service. This includes those who must be up at 5:30-6:00 AM to hitch up the trailer to the truck to haul the portable church equipment to the school. These are the “unsung heroes” that seldom get notice of the hard work and effort, those who work behind the scenes that perform the duties that enable us to do what we do. I know that there are those on the set-up team that have worked at this steadily over the past 5 years. It will certainly be nice having a permanent facility that is ours and does not require the constant set-up effort each Sunday. It will also be a great tool for ministry that should open up many opportunities.

Many people contribute significantly to the ministry of the church in various ways, according to the gifts and talents that God has given them. The church is likened to the body having many parts that contribute their part in the overall functioning and health of the body. Every part plays an important role. The parts that are not as visible and presentable are given greater respect for their necessity. (internal organs) No part can deem another as unimportant. But they all work together for the proper functioning of the whole body.

“14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12:14-25, NKJV™)

Each of us has a spiritual gift or talent that God has given us to use for His glory and to edify the body of Christ. Just because you may not be in a highly visible area of ministry does not mean that your contributions are less important. If it were not for the people that contribute significantly behind the scenes, the church would not be able to function effectively. Hats off to the faithful unsung heroes.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Emergent Church Now an Official Structured Movement?

Well, this is certainly interesting. The Emerging church now has a National Director, Tony Jones and a Chairman of the Board of Directors who is none other than – ready for this (drum roll....) – Brian McLaren! And they have previously shunned becoming structured – something they have criticized what they call “traditional” churches for.

Hmmm. I wonder if some are still going to try to claim that Brian McLaren doesn’t speak for them.

You can read more on this at EmergentNo in the post “The Emergent Church Movement Appoints a National Director”.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Ecumenical Danger

Phillip Johnson earlier this week discussed the issue concerning the ecumenical cooperation of evangelicals with groups marginally associated with Christianity such as Roman Catholics. Some of the comments generated by that post have compelled me to post on the subject here. It seems that many evangelicals do not grasp the gravity of the issue as it pertains to the truth becoming obscured due to our apprehension to magnify the truth of God’s Word for fear of breaking the alliance with those groups. Ecumenical co belligerency for the sake of championing moral and social causes has the unfortunate tendency to place the importance of Biblical truth on the back burner.

The general public identifies as being closely tied to Christian values such things as taking a stand on moral issues such as abortion and pornography. This is due to the fact that it is usually Christian groups that are the most outspoken on these issues, especially since Christianity stakes its claim on absolute truth concerning right and wrong. When these causes are undertaken under the auspice of Christian virtue, it creates the illusion that we are on the same page with groups such as Roman Catholics when it comes to the Gospel, especially when those participants bear the label “Christian”. These moral crusades are often labeled as such. (e.g.: Christian Coalition, etc.) The world does not recognize the differences. Anybody who names the name of Christ is considered a Christian. Laying aside crucial differences only obscures the truth and adds to the confusion concerning the message of the Gospel. Not only does the world get a distorted view of what it means to be a Christian, but also people within the church have become inept at distinguishing these differences.

What I have observed is that a growing number of Evangelicals are confused concerning the crucial doctrinal differences between Evangelicals and Catholics. In fact, even within evangelical churches the crucial differences are seldom discussed. A few years ago I was attending one of the adult Sunday school classes at the church I was a member of at that time. One of the men attending made a comment about Mother Theresa and made the statement that she was a great born again Christian. The leader was one of the pastors of the church. He replied with a statement that affirmed the man’s comment, saying, “Yes, you are so right.” I went up to him at the end of class to confront him on the issue. He did a lot of back peddling and emphatically stated that it was the man in the class that believed Mother Theresa was a believer, not him. I told him that he was agreeing with the man by affirming his statement. About that time the gentleman that made the statement was approaching the pastor, so it was a convenient opportunity for him to “ditch” me and engage in a conversation with this particular gentleman. I am not attempting to tarnish Mother Theresa’s legacy as a great humanitarian. But she continued to embrace the false teachings of Roman Catholicism. I know that we cannot look into anyone’s heart like God can and know his or her spiritual condition in terms of saving faith. I cannot judge what is in one’s heart, but I can judge their doctrine. If her writings are an indication of what she really believed, then it appears that she did not adhere to Biblical saving faith.

Evangelicalism has made the excuse that they are merely cooperating with Catholics for social causes. However, this has extended to spiritual causes over time as well. Look at Promise Keepers. Let me say that I am grateful for those men who have been reached with the Gospel and whose lives have been changed as a result of PK. But I am increasingly concerned with the overt ecumenical dialogue that I fear is misleading many of the men who participate. The movement deliberately makes a point not to discuss the crucial differences and avoid any language discussing doctrinal issues that would offend Catholics (as a general rule, the movement is doctrinally weak). In fact, some of the men who participate in the leadership of the movement are devout Roman Catholics. I fear that many of these men are continuing to embrace the false Roman Catholic view of salvation.

In addition, we need to understand the real motives behind the ecumenical movement. It is the Roman Catholic Church that is the predominant force pushing the ecumenical movement. This is one of the outcomes of Vatican II. I grew up Catholic and I was the first in my immediate family to be saved. I remember when my mother would bring home church bulletins from the Catholic Church. In some of these bulletins was information on how to carry on dialogues with non-Catholics for the sole purpose to win them back to the Catholic Church. Rome’s intent is to woo Evangelical Protestants back to the “Mother Church”. The ecumenical dialogue is not some innocent plea to band together merely to battle the culture war, but rather a dubious attempt to win us back to what they consider the “one true church”. In fact, Keith Fournier’s book “Evangelical Catholics” is essentially a ploy to win Evangelicals and ex-Catholics back to “Mother Church”. An ample amount of literature is published in order to accomplish this. There are many Catholic web sites such as “The Mystical Rose Catholic Page” that has an entire page dedicated to attempting to win people back to the RCC.

It is also interesting that Catholics are now adopting many of the Evangelical terms that we use – “Born Again”, “Saved”, etc. Of course they also adopt their alternate meanings to harmonize with Catholic dogma. This is in order to dupe Evangelicals into thinking the Catholic Church is just another Evangelical church.

We need to exercise discernment and not be deceived by the flattering dialogue from the Roman Catholic Church, especially if it is under the guise of noble endeavors like battling the “culture war”. It is likely that I will comment further on this subject in future posts.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Blogging Advice for the "emerging" Folks.

Phillip Johnson has a post that reflects the gist of many of the pro-ec (emerging church) blogs - expressed in good-humored satire, of course. The pro-ec crowd is not going to like this one. But with much of what I have seen with the "emerging" crowd, they have it coming. It's just that I have observed from many of the "ec" blogs that they are....well....blogs with an attitude. I would describe them as being more akin to a rebellious teenager.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Fundamentalism’s Downfall

Fundamentalism started out on the right path toward the early part of the 20th century as a movement dedicated to Biblical truth in opposition to the onslaught of theological liberalism. However, towards the last half of the 20th century, it degenerated into a movement dominated by incessant infighting, legalism and general lack of love for one another or anyone else for that matter. It was due to this unfortunate drift away from merely standing for the fundamentals of Biblical Christianity that caused many to distance themselves from the movement, preferring to call themselves just Evangelicals. Really, both stood for the essential doctrines of the Christian faith and the lines of distinction between the two are often somewhat blurred.

Phillip Johnson recently led a workshop at the 2005 Shepherd’s Conference entitled "Dead Right: The Failure of Fundamentalism" where he chronicled the history of fundamentalism and elaborated on its failures. The transcript of the workshop can be found at the SharperIron.
As Phil explains, the term Evangelical is a term that dates all the way back to the Reformation and was applied to those adhering to the proclamation of the Gospel and Biblical truth. In reality, a fundamentalist is also an evangelical, at least according to the historical definition.

This article really mirrored many of my sentiments as well. Basically, as it pertains to standing for the fundamentals of the faith, yes I am a fundamentalist. But if it means becoming encumbered with all the excess baggage that really has nothing to do with biblical truth, count me out. I would rather just be called an evangelical if that is the case.

Long ago, when I was considering going to a Bible college, I visited a fundamentalist school. It did not take me long to decide that I really wanted nothing to do with attending there. The place just seemed “ooze” with legalism and really a disingenuous attitude in general. Much of what I saw really had little to do with biblical truth and there just seemed to be a feeling of a general phony attitude. I am not talking about some basic rules to maintain order, but the place just seemed to reek with the game of playing church. I also knew of a girl who attended one of these ultra-fundamentalist schools who was really turned off by it and ended with her dropping out. She just could not take what she saw as a lot of spiritual and moral decay. I think it really hurt her spiritually for quite awhile. Again, these feelings had nothing to do with any opposition to fundamental Bible truth, but with the legalism that mirrored the attitude of the Pharisees.

I also did my “time” in a legalistic fundamental Baptist church. It is so ironic that although they talked a lot about the Bible, were fairly “conservative” and stood for the “fundamentals”, the preaching was extremely topical and shallow. Many of the people really did not have a good working knowledge of the Bible. They knew a few verses and knew how to repeat whatever the pastor said. I also observed that there tended to be a lot of “easy believism”. This was so tragic. Many of the people seemed to just learn how to follow rules and play church. There were some that would accuse other fundamentalists of being what they called compromising “New Evangelicals”, over issues that were generally not really related to Scripture. Or it was due to a misunderstanding of what they said. Some even classified John MacArthur as one of those compromising evangelicals!

I believe that this attitude really drives people away from Bible believing faith and into movements such as the “emerging” church. However, while the “emerging” church does point out some valid concerns, their general tendency to depart from biblical truth makes me cringe. There is no way that I could identify myself with that movement.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that more fundamentalists begin to realize the problems that have crept into the movement, and earnestly seek to truly get back to defending fundamental Scriptural truth.