According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Several Thoughts on Post-Evangelic Church Discipline

Reading Roger Olson's post on, “Mr. Smith” Goes to Church, But Should He Be Allowed To? (When Should Churches Exclude People?), detailed a very good example of when a brother or sister should reprove a fellow Christian (found towards the latter third of his post). And more importantly, by what spirit, or attitude, that this rebuttal must follow: at all times, and in all replies, in the spirit of God's love.
 
Within my own experience I too have come across faithful Christian souls much mislead to their understanding of God's Spirit and Word by personal convictions, usually confusing biblical truths with their own selective interpretations of the Bible, many times led by socio-political or culturally-misinformed beliefs, as often as misled from an erring pulpit or impolitic Christian media. And many times have I been moved to challenge such ideas in order to re-teach God's Word from an opposing perspective that may, or may not, be successful against the stubborn beliefs of a persistent man or woman unwilling to hear and repent. Thus demanding of the would-be preacher a life of patient example and openness, more than the life of exemplar saint and teacher. For people are much more attracted to others once filled themselves with idiosyncrasies, faults, and sins. And especially lives that have shown a humble reform and repentance away from personal backgrounds fraught with brokenness and jealousies. Lives that have shown deep spiritual change in the aftermath of Jesus' love and salvation.

Even so, to prophesy God's Word is to be met by worldly and fleshly resistance. It requires the Spirit of God to sow the seed and bring all to fruition (Romans 5-8). The reaper can only do his, or her, best in tilling the soil so that it is good (and not hardened), hidden (and not in plain view of hungry birds come to remove it), and enriched by the reviving waters of God's loving grace and guidance (and not left to wither and die within the grounds of temptations beset this sinful world). And for our humble labors we pray that those God-inspired shepherding tasks be met in good return by faithful disciples willing to follow Jesus (and not church dogmas, nor hardened church attitudes). Bearing within themselves and ministries God's Spirit of grace, mercy, love and forgiveness.

The Parable of the Sower: Matthew 13
 
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears,[a] let him hear.”

As further example, within my fundamentalist church background was its witness to the too-frequent public church disciplines and "excommunications" which I was always opposed to - even as a young child. They were too often personally humiliating and spiritually unproductive, leaving but only bitterness and wreckage in its wake. Later, at the several evangelical churches I next attended, these activities were conducted behind "closed-door sessions" that basically amounted to the same thing. The more sanctified word that was bandied about was "reconciliation" to help bring favor to the proceedings, but it was a profoundly "non-reconciliatory" process unless the errant church member might submit back into the ranks of the church's perceived creeds and dogmas. Past recollections recall a homosexual brother expediently dismissed from public ministry, and several from broken marriages having ended in divorce. How these church intrusions helped to reconcile my brothers and sisters left me in grave doubt to the policies of the impertinent church. It simply had done its job of exclusion and moved on as business as usual protecting its dogmas and creeds, its congregants and aspirants.

No less have my later observations seen similarly heavy-handed pastoral staffs pointedly removing "subversive" members both publicly, and privately, from their "reforming," or "more enlightened" church platforms. In my experience, both churches were mega-church size (meaning that they were well-followed and well-attended by the public), contemporary, and crude (or offensive) to their own testimony of what a church was supposedly all about (which in my estimation should have been its pursuit of pastoring - rather than expelling - would-be congregants). Each were specifically interested in running out their own ideas of what a biblical Christianity might look like (the one focused on interpretive orthodoxy, while the other focused on interpretive orthopraxy mixing in its own ideas of Christian orthodoxy). And when confronted by an idea or practice differing from its own, would next make all endeavors to remove the offending parties from their churched ranks rather than attempting patient teaching and loving admonition. In neither case could I join those organizations as a member though I had attended each. It left me feeling greatly disappointed with any church organization that has grown out-of-bounds to their calling of shepherding seeking souls. As such, the issue wasn't in the church's size but in the church's vision. It's idea of ministry and fellowship. Its practice of assembly and worship.
 
No wonder then there are so many people doubtful of church fellowship, refusing its ministries and outreaches, preferring instead the idea of agnosticism or atheism to outright Christianity. Though even those mediating positions bear in themselves their own special dilemmas... mainly the lack of a humble Christian fellowship centered around an open Bible. Instead these men and women substitute worldly fellowships for imperfect churchly ones, against their own thoughts about what they think God is, or isn't. To sometimes discover a more loving fellowship more accepting of their faults than from within their own church's more self-righteous folds. But if God cannot be found in the church than why bother if the result is the same on the outside? Consider how many of Jesus' ministries were to people found outside of the Jewish synagogues themselves conflicted by the harsh Temple teachings and priestly interpretations of what Jewish law must be. Where was found inside the Temple ungodly attitudes that blasphemed and condemned Jesus - its builder and maker - while outside the Temple this same Jesus was welcomed and worshipped.... What a stark curiosity, don't you think?

It is a wonderment then that God's churches serve at all beyond their own self-interests (or, should we say, self-righteousness and legalisms? But then again, don't we all?). The answer is not in giving up on the church and leaving its congregations mad, or in despair, but in patiently challenging the serpents in the pulpit (and upon its boards and pews) with the truths of Jesus' love and passion for strays and sinners. Ultimately, how we approach life's problems with political savvy rather than by impolitic outbursts must be determinative upon the individual's capacity for political acumen or restrained passionate spirit should s/he wish to be heard. Much like the prophets, we need to stand and challenge blinded, imperfect, unloving, religious systems. And like Jesus, we must learn to lead by example, discipling (not disciplining) others to the call of Christ. Ultimately, it is left to the heart of man how one might respond - even as it is left to the Spirit of God how best He might use our responses within the community of God's people. Our prayer should always be: "God bless all who try. And God save all who do!"
 
But my greater fear is for those who try - and fail - and perhaps lose their faith altogether in the process of attempting Spirit-led reform. Do not despair. Perhaps God has risen such a one up to start their own church of God-fearers and servants. For it is only in the traces, bearing the yoke of Christ, that one might begin to understand the dilemmas and conflicts brought upon public ministry within the ranks of sinful men. It takes the wisdom of Solomon led by the Spirit of God to be successful... and even then it can be fraught with the same errant passion as was once observed from the "outside looking in." To such a one "Go with God and be still. Allowing our Lord and heavenly Father to guide and direct."

In the end, our ministries, and ideas, are our privilege to share, but not to beat about upon the heads of others less convicted, if at all. It is God's work, and not our own. As God has given to us His Spirit's passion, even so must we be still before the movement of God's holy work amongst the hearts of men. Who leads us to still waters. Who guides us to green pastures. Who calls all His sheep from beyond the deep valleys of death to a table set before His enemies filled with blessing and eternal life. Though we understand it not, may God be praised and His faithful judgment ruled by loving grace and judicious wisdom. Amen.
 
R.E. Slater
October 22, 2013

 

Psalm 23

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Lord Is My Shepherd

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[a]
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]
    for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e] shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell[f] in the house of the Lord
    forever.[g]
 
Footnotes:
  1. Psalm 23:2 Hebrew beside waters of rest
  2. Psalm 23:3 Or in right paths
  3. Psalm 23:4 Or the valley of deep darkness
  4. Psalm 23:6 Or Only
  5. Psalm 23:6 Or steadfast love
  6. Psalm 23:6 Or shall return to dwell
  7. Psalm 23:6 Hebrew for length of days
 
 
Verses on Church Discipline
"In all things, let love be its guiding rule"
 
 
Matthew 18:15-20 - Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.   (Read More...)

2 Corinthians 2:5-11 - But if any have caused grief, he hath not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all.   (Read More...)

Hebrews 10:26 - For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,

Titus 3:9-11 - But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.   (Read More...)

1 Corinthians 5:5 - To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Zechariah 11:17 - Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword [shall be] upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.

Acts 16:1-40 - Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father [was] a Greek:   (Read More...)

Malachi 3:10 - Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that [there shall] not [be room] enough [to receive it].

Zechariah 14:1-21 - Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.   (Read More...)

Ezekiel 48:1-35 - Now these [are] the names of the tribes. From the north end to the coast of the way of Hethlon, as one goeth to Hamath, Hazarenan, the border of Damascus northward, to the coast of Hamath; for these are his sides east [and] west; a [portion for] Dan.   (Read More...)

1 Chronicles 17:1-27 - Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD [remaineth] under curtains.   (Read More...)

1 Kings 19:1-21 - And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.   (Read More...)

Genesis 6:1-22 - And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,   (Read More...)

Revelation 14:12 - Here is the patience of the saints: here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.

Revelation 13:1-18 - And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.   (Read More...)

Revelation 11:1-19 - And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.   (Read More...)

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 - For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:   (Read More...)

1 Corinthians 1:17 - For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

Acts 2:38 - Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Mark 8:1-38 - In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples [unto him], and saith unto them,   (Read More...)

Mark 7:1-37 - Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.   (Read More...)

Matthew 16:18 - And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 7:1 - Judge not, that ye be not judged.

Psalms 127:1-6 - (A Song of degrees for Solomon.) Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh [but] in vain.   (Read More...)

Genesis 1:26 - And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:1-31 - In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.   (Read More...)

 

No comments:

Post a Comment