©02 The Media Desk
"Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason--I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other--my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen."
Martin Luther, the original Protestor, April 18, 1521
Whether or not the man actually said "Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders" ("Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise") is the subject of debate by theologians and historians who have nothing better to do with their time.
What is recorded in the court transcript of his trial is enough, if he didn't say it, he most certainly meant it.- The Desk
The Desk has been openly wondering what is wrong with the Christian Churches / Churches of Christ on the Delmarva Peninsula for some time. And the answers it has gotten are as varied as the people it has discussed it with.
It hasn't just mentioned it to people on the inside of said churches either. It has searched far and wide for answers, in Scripture, in sociological textbooks, through church history and treaties on the organization and administration of the local church. It has discussed it with a Wiccan Priestess and the occasional Roman Catholic. A Baptist, a Lutheran, and a Methodist 'oh my'.
Some of the people from inside these local churches have left on their own accord, others were asked to dis-fellowship themselves from one church and moved to another, only to eventually have something of the same thing happen there.
One Friend of the Desk moved on because of reasons purely his own, others have shared some of the same problems the Desk has noticed and either decided to put up with it and stay or move on.
Elsewhere in the 'Dancing' series the Desk has outlined some of the minor incidents that started it down this path. And now, looking back, it recognizes a pattern.
There is nothing wrong with the churches themselves, the people in the pew, as it were. They are all believers who have answered the call of God as dictated by their conscious and have responded as they think is required by the Word of God and outlined in Acts. As the Desk understands it Acts 22 : 16 is one of the clearest statements that way in the Book, that isn't used at every revival in the land.
"And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name."If that requirement is satisfied then they are a CHRISTIAN by definition. If they are living a life worthy of that name, and there are certain criteria here and there in the Book to judge that against, then they are Members of the Body of Christ. If it's in the Book, so be it. If not... leave it alone. Everything else thrown into the soup is of Men.
Want a list? Fine. Here:
There is more. Years more. But those will do for a start.
- The Desk has heard proclaimed from several Pulpits on Sunday Morning as part of the Sermon that one American Political Party is Spiritually Superior to another. This is ... In a word:
'horsehockey' -Col Potter, M*A*S*H
- The Desk witnessed a discussion that came down to it is improper for a young woman of the Church to have more than one earring per ear. Find that one in the Book of Books as a 'Thus Sayth the Lord'.
- The Desk sat in several services where an Elder of the Church asked for copies of the congregation's Federal Tax Return and wanted them to sign Pledge Forms stating how much they would be giving to the church in the coming year. That one still raises the hairs on the back of its neck.
- The Desk listened in disbelief as an Evangelist told the congregation they were NOT to help a local denominational church in any way after a fire destroyed their building, he didn't want his people helping somebody else spread false teachings. More on this one later.
- The Desk received a letter from another Evangelist expressing concern that the Desk and its family had not been at the meeting for a few weeks running and the Evangelist was all over himself with concern. Evidently he wasn't concerned enough to call, stop by, email, or arrange for somebody else to do so if he couldn't during that time. Later, the Evangelist never mentioned the letter or even asked why they hadn't been there.
- The Desk watched a minister so smoother his family with his ever-wackier ideas that his family essentially self-destructed and the kids that could jumped ship.
- The Desk got into the middle of the argument about the propriety of a young woman who 'swayed too much' when she was singing specials up front causing a gentleman of the church to have 'thoughts'. Instead of telling the gentleman to work on keeping his thoughts where they should be, the Evangelist stepped to the young woman and tore into her like she was 'The Hollywood Madam'. Causing a serious lack of special music for several months.
- The Desk saw a local church get so absorbed in opening a school that it seemed to forget about those in the church that weren't involved with the school, to the point of blatant nepotism, and exclusion of all other activities. No, it isn't sour grapes. The school was for the lower elementary grades and the Desk's kids were beyond those.
- The Desk watched another congregation engross itself in a competitive sport involving the church youth group that everything else fell by the wayside. Including regular Sunday School type lessons. Is it 'proper and fitting' to have a Trophy front and center on the table with the Lord's Supper and the Offering?
- The Desk listened to a couple of the women of a Congregation wonder why that if it is stated in Scripture that the 'older women are to teach the younger women' why a middle-aged man, the Evangelist, thought it necessary to inject himself as the leader of a mid-week women's Bible study. And if they didn't want him doing it, they couldn't have their meeting, even if it wasn't done under the umbrella of the church. When asked by the Desk, the Evangelist said he had to make sure no false teachings were brought up.
- The Desk knew another Evangelist that when push came to shove and the church didn't seem to dance to his tune the way he thought they should, he quit the ministry and went to work selling lumber.
- The Desk heard personally from an Evangelist that no printed material, such as flyers or pamphlets could be given out to members at the church building unless approved by him personally. The Desk wasn't aware that something personal between member A and member B was any of Evangelist C's business.
- The Desk heard an Evangelist state, in so many words, that unless you actually attended his local meeting you were in danger of the Fire. This has latter been echoed by another Evangelist, and even more recently, implied by a third. Fascinating no?
Could it be that these men, those called to lead the local church, get used to being In Charge have their word taken as having Authority in all matters great and small?
Could it be fear of sharing authority, a turf war as it were?
Could it be they believe they have some Special Understanding and their flock are incapable of 'rightly dividing the Word' and they have to be involved with everything to ensure nothing bad creeps in?
Could it be a combination of self-aggrandizement, self-delusion, and maybe even a bit of that old devil greed creeping in?
On a personal level the Desk has liked, for the most part, the local pastors and preachers and ministers and evangelists it has dealt with over the course of thirty years or so as a Believer. And at one time it even thought about becoming a minister or something like that way. But the Desk knows it is better off in what it calls...
The Desk's Adult Class Sunday School Teacher delivered a series of lessons recently on opinions and their place in the church (with the minister in attendance); Which really is- no place in the church.
The Desk agreed with that.
Then it sat through two sermons where the opinion of the speaker was given from the pulpit without being labeled as such.
It has been said in this series before, and it shall be here stated again.
Jesus the Christ was not a Republican. It is not in the Ten Commandments that "Thou Shalt Not Gettest Thine Ears Double Pierced'. The Good Lord most certainly does not care either way whether or not the kids color with markers or crayons to make their pictures in class, now why do YOU care?
Is it 'helping to spread false teachings' by helping a denominational church clean up a burned out building? What happened to Christian Charity and Outreach? Aren't we to Live as Christ did? Oh, the Desk Forgot, Jesus would NEVER be seen around people that didn't believe exactly as He did. He would never have helped them. Or fellowshipped with them to have an opportunity to show them the Truth. As you can tell, the Desk hasn't quite gotten that one unstuck from its craw yet.
If something is a Sin per the Book; adultery, stealing, drunkenness, driving ten miles an hour too slow in the passing lane... (maybe not that last one, but it ought to be according to the Desk) then there is No Doubt where the Church should be on the matter. If it is Not in the Book...
Paul addressed this matter in Second Thessalonians 3, among other places, where he called a busybody a busybody in verse 11, noting that they actually increase disorder in the church.
So exactly where is the line. Nothing the Desk listed above in its list of heartburn causing things is an actual SIN. Poor judgement- most certainly. Abuse of position- in a couple of them, probably. But an out and out Sin such as coveting your neighbor's parents taking the Lord's name in vain while getting blind drunk and committing adultery on the Sabbath?
Yes it can cause a weaker brother to stumble, and yes it is not exhibiting the Spirit and so on and so forth. But as for a cut and dry 'Thus Sayth The Lord' SIN with chapter and verse? Not really. Case could be made in a couple of them, but...
To answer the Question here... perhaps we should begin at the beginning.
What is the Mission of the Local Church, and what does the Desk call 'the Final Outrage'?
Last one first. The Final Outrage is ... Preachers that seem to forget they too are but 'sinners saved by grace'. Oh, they mouth the words, they say they stumble and loose sight of the Lord, but they don't believe it and think that they are a little better than the rest of us that were 'created a little lower than the angels'.
And yes, the Desk believes that 'but for the grace of God, there he'd be'. Thank Heaven the seminary wanted to talk about money before they would talk about course credit transfers. Or the Desk might be in that boat right now... errr... in that pulpit.
It's not new in the world of TV Evangelists. It's not even new in the world of Local Preachers. But it is new, as far as the Desk is concerned, when you can't find a church within fifty miles of home without one.
Now... The Mission of the Local Church.
There are year long seminary classes on that matter. Panel discussions are held at the Christian Conventions. There are books and volumes and series devoted to it. And you can raise a halfway decent argument if you get more than two preachers in a room and ask it.
As the Desk sees it, the Local Church is to...
Now where in that equation does it say anything about 'Telling the women of the church they can't sing the way they see fit or have their Bible Study without the Preacher'?
Worship God. Take the Word to the Lost. Edify the Saints. Repeat 1 thru 3 until the Lord Comes.
From where the Desk sits in the last seat of the last pew, as long as they don't dress the Archangel up as Kris Kringle and the church furniture isn't an eyesore and holds the trays up and the lady that's singing is dress 'modestly'... get about the Lord's Business and quit worrying about it.
Some things are NOT Salvation Magnitude Issues. Isn't there a verse or two about arguing over nothing causing the downfall of the church?
Second Peter two comes to mind. As does 1 Timothy 6 : 3 -5
If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.How's that again? 'An unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words'. And they have been 'Robbed Of Truth'.
Does this apply only to the People in the Pew? Or could this be aimed at the one doing the teaching?
Well. Since Paul says 'if anyone teaches...' it would seem to be meant for somebody besides the people in the pew.
Is expressing your personal feelings from the pulpit, or the office, or behind home plate as the Word teaching false doctrine? What else would it be?
What does the Lord say about those that use their position for their own ends?
One of the verses often used, and the Desk would say 'Abused', for offering meditation during church services is from Malachi: "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, `How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings...." It's a perfectly good verse. And occasionally we the people in the pew need to hear it.
But those same men that spout it to make a guilty congregation dig deeper into their pockets have never read the beginning of the previous chapter....
The Desk will end this one with it. Malachi 2: 1 - 9
"And now this admonition is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name," says the LORD Almighty, "I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me.
"Because of you I will rebuke your descendants ; I will spread on your faces the offal from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it.
And you will know that I have sent you this admonition so that my covenant with Levi may continue," says the LORD Almighty.
"My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name.
True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.
"For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction--because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty.
But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi," says the LORD Almighty.
"So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law."
So many church "leaders" want to gather a following unto themselves. No doubt many of them started off in ministry with sincere hearts, but somehow they managed to supplant the guidance of the Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit with their own "greater" wisdom. I am glad to be sitting in the back of the church on the most inconspicuous pew, but sometimes being there is quite a lonely place to be. I have to remember that I am surrounded by many other who are sitting there with me.
Today, however, I have to believe this by faith since I too have become an outcast. Maybe we have placed to much emphasis on trying to do this "church" thing according to the traditional format. Maybe we just need to be simplify our Christian thinking and get back to the basics as you suggest.
I long for this kind of Christian community. I long for the relationships that grow from the purity of this kind of Christian thought. Thanks for your commentary.