Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Will the TRUE Church please stand up!!

My thesis for these blogs is that the church had lost its identity.
I wrote that identity crisis number 1 was the church being identified by our buildings!! This is not found in Scripture and we think building "upon a foundation" means going into a building program. As my dear friend mentioned at Bible Study last Friday, from the Field of Dreams movie with Kevin Costner, "If you build it, they will come" type attitude. Time to move on!!

Identity Crisis #2: The church has allowed the unsaved to become members in it. There are people in the church who have been members for years and they are not saved and do not display the fruits of the Spirit and do not have a devotion to the Lord because they are about being seen, they come with their family and wonder during the service how long the preacher is going to preach today. It is obvious by the look on their face that they have better things to do and want to get this couple of hours over with. Hey, they will tell you that they are good people and that is enough to get them to heaven because they come to church and sit in the same pew for years. They truly believe that God will reward their faithful attendance because that is what God wants them to do...go to church...and that's it.

They have no regard for Scripture. They may know John 3:16, but if you ask them to apply what God is teaching through His Word, it ain't happenin'. The word "disciple" or "servant" is not in their vocabulary. They are attending church to be served. Jesus taught: "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left." Matt 25:31-33 (NASB95)

We have placed sheep and goats together and we are trying our hardest to unify them in the Spirit. Can't be done. The goats will try and "butt" the sheeps away from ministry and stand directly in the pool of water to make it muddy so the sheep will live in fear of them and not go to the pool for drink. Goats drain the fellowship of the church by taking over and relationships between sheep are on pins and needles. Goats have no problem getting in the face of sheep to stare them down and to place blame. "You don't understand"...."my ministry"......"people don't appreciate me".....these are the words used by goats to describe their hurts and feelings as they are self absorbed and focus on what happens to them in perspective.

Paul also writes in Philippians 2:3-7: "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped , but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men." Paul instructs to have the same attitude of Christ...an attitude of humility (as a servant to our Master) and of obedience (to God's will in our life). There is no room for selfishess or conceit here. A goat's attitude is the opposite of Christ's attitude!!

Some sheep have problems remembering what Christ called them to do. In Luke 9:23, the first thing Christ called us to do is to "DENY YOURSELF". Go back to the Great Commandment, "Love God, and then love others." (summary) We let the mentality of our great country..."I have rights and you need to respect them"...into the church and that pretty much squashes the Great Commandment and the teaching of Paul to the church in Philippi. You cannot take a goat type thinking into a sheep filled church. This is why we have an identity crisis today in the church. We have filled our body (church) with too much goat mentality and junk!!

Will the REAL SHEEP stand up for God's biblical plan for His church? Is Jesus the true head of the church you are a member of or are the goats runnin' things? Will the SHEEP DOG (pastor) do his best to keep the goats away from the SHEEP? Until next time...Sleepy Disciple


Pastor Clark said...

I agree with the frustration of your post.

However, I think the conclusion may be one unwarranted if the end is that we should separate out or disfellowship those who have divergent beliefs.

Jesus teaches in the parable of the wheat and the weeds that the unregenerate have always been with us and the indication is that until He returns they will continue to be with us.

" 'No,' he said. 'When you gather up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I'll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but store the wheat in my barn. ' " - Matthew 13:29-30 HCSB

Martin Luther in a sermon once taught on this saying:

"For the sower of the good seed says again, they should not uproot it, that is, they should have patience, and suffer such blasphemy, and commend all to God; for although the tares hinder the wheat, yet they make it the more beautiful to behold, compared with the tares, as St. Paul also says in 1 Cor. 2:19: "For there must be false factions among you, that they that are approved may be made manifest among you." -The Wheat and the Tares: Martin Luther

Perhaps a better opportunity is to be clear upfront with what we believe and so try to "narrow" the gate of entry to church membership. I tried to highlight this thought in "Sorry you can't join our church" - Pastor Chad Brodrick had some interesting things to say about his church's process - unfortunately they may take it too far by removing church members.

Once the unregenerate are in according to Jesus' teaching here I'm not sure there is much that can be done and still align with the Lord's teaching.

In the Matthew 25 text - it's only the Great Shepherd that will do the separating in the day of the harvest.

Some are quick to dismiss Jesus' parable as only instruction against an "Inquisition" or "witch burning" but I'm not so sure because He makes clear the distinction in this and other parables relating to the same concept (wheat/Word).

So what if the church is inconvenienced for the sake of an unregenerate person?

It appears to me to align with Jesus' teaching in Luke 15:7, "I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance."

Perhaps the one is that old unregenerate thorn in the flesh that we think we'd be better without. Maybe that's the person that verifies your ministry of grace and mercy?

It gives me no pleasure, but from Jesus' teachings here maybe it's only in the ugly business meeting, the nasty committee meeting, or the scars on the pastor's ego that the "real" Christians are highlighted apart from those destined for destruction?

And in so doing Paul's word to the Corinthian church comes alive where your actions are manifested as approved by the false factions. Goes back to the idea - how can we know sweet if we've not tasted sour? How can we understand how good God is until we've realized how evil we are?

No good answers - sorry - just more food for thought.

Gene Pool said...

Pastor Brian,

I admire you for what you have written. And I think there is tremendous validity in your words.

When the saints (those people who are “in Jesus,” and those who “Jesus Christ is Lord”) gather together, THAT IS THE CHURCH! Contrary to popular understanding, the church is NOT the facility with a bell on top across from the post office. That is only the location where the true church comes together to worship and fellowship on a regular, corporate basis--the gathering of the Saints.

I once heard an old-time preacher say, “for those people not in Jesus Christ, this [preaching of the Word] should be the most uncomfortable place in the world. People who are not in Jesus should want to flee from this place because their real standing in front of the Holy God will be exposed." (Please Lord, send us more old-time preachers.)

I also recall a comment made by a contemporary theologian, “the Devil does not need to attack today’s church, he simply joins it.” He was making reference to the number of unsaved, rebellious people--rams and goats--who had become “members,” only to create strife and turmoil within the body. And I agree with you that they butt and shove and muddy things up to where the gentle sheep wander away from the flock. You can see in the multitude of dieing churches today. This (in my opinion) is the number one thing that causes them to die--rams and goats forcing “their ways” on the gentle sheep, and going unchallenged by the under-shepherds who God has called to protect, guide and feed the flock. In the end, only the rams and goats remain, wandering around, wondering why it can’t be like it used to be.

" 'As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
" 'Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away…”

Wow! That is powerful Scripture!

Again, Pastor Brian, I admire you for proclaiming God’s Word, even the portions with a sharp edge.

Gene Pool said...

Pastor Clark said: "However, I think the conclusion may be one unwarranted if the end is that we should separate out or disfellowship those who have divergent beliefs."

Pastor Clark,
With respect, I don't think Pastor Brian is referring to “divergent beliefs.” The term divergent sounds to me like they are really believers, deviating, but not necessarily far from, obedience to the Word of God--true Christians who have wandered slightly off course--away from plumb line. That is definitely not what I took away from the blog. I think the rams and goats he speaks of more fit the word divergent as a mathematical expression, i.e. having no finite limits. They refuse to be limited by anything other than their own wants and desires. There is no authority except their own authority. With them the fruit is not of the Spirit, but the spirit of the world. Rather than reflecting to an unbelieving world the love and character of the Lord Jesus Christ, they reflect strife and turmoil of the Devil. There is an marked absence of “sanctifying work of the Spirit.”

Gene Pool

Ergatees said...

Pastor Clark,

I think you are missing the point on a couple of matters.

#1) I think Sleepy was making the point that if you are not a TRUE believer, that is, you are not a repentant believer in Jesus Christ, then you should NOT be a member of the Church.

Certainly, all sorts of believers of all sorts of faiths would and should be able to attend a Church meeting; this would provide awesome opportunities for them to hear the Gospel and for the Gospel to be shared with them from the members of the Church. However, only believers should be MEMBERS of Church.

Think about it for a moment… and Sleepy is right on this...many Churches have large numbers of unsaved MEMBERS. This is a horrible situation because these are the people who are helping to shape the direction and budgets of our Churches. Additionally, this is a gross misrepresentation of the bride of Christ. I would understand that the invisible Church – sometimes called the Church universal and is made up of all believers from all time – is the bride of Christ. I would also understand that the Church visible – also known as the Local Church made up of believers that regularly meet a particular location and are committed to one another – is local representation of the Bride of Christ (Church Visible).

About your quote of Luther….while Martin Luther was correct on a lot of things is was wrong on a lot of things as well. I would place his understanding of the wheat and tares among the things that he got wrong. You have to understand something about Luther. Luther essentially replaced one state Church with another state Church. Therefore, to be a citizen of the state meant that you were a member of the Church. So, you had to admit EVERYONE into the Church. That was why pedo-baptism remained in practice and is probably why he misinterprets the wheat and the tares parable.

#2) I spent the time reading your post and the comments that you exchanged with Pastor Chad, I think you are on to something with your position, but to think that you are unwilling to remove members from the role really misses the point of Matthew 18. I mean if Jesus did not want us to fellowship with people who are under discipline, why even have the option…and if you think Church non-attendance should not be something that people should not be disciplined for, why even have a membership process? It really defeats the purpose. Please understand what I am saying, I am NOT saying that if someone misses service they should be disciplined and removed from the roles. What I AM saying is putting in place something like Pastor Chad describes is absolutely right on.

In Him,