Saturday, August 25, 2012


If the pattern for the church and for the Christian is so plainly laid out in the New Testament such that there can be no dispute (as some would say that 2 Timothy 1:13 states "Follow the pattern of the sound [or healthy] words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.") then why did such a perfect Pattern lead to the Catholic church of the middle ages, and all the many thousands of splits and sects that we find today. If the pattern were perfect, the church would be perfect right? Is the pattern really there at all?  Timothy was with Paul for years and the two small letters we have are not the complete story. So when Paul tells Timothy to follow the pattern it's not something that is wholly available to us. Think about how an architect would build a house out of the "pattern" or "blueprint". It's just not all there. We don't have everything, but we have "everything we need" (2 Peter 1:3).

If the goal of the restoration movement is to get back to that pattern, then why do we think that the results will be any different this time around. If all were restored to the way it was in the first century, then just a few hundred years from now things would be heading back to the schisms and sectarianism we find today. Do we think we can do better than those who were so close in time to the events of the gospels? And if the pattern is so clearly laid out, why do we need the Holy Spirit? I guess this is why Patternists often equate the Spirit with the Bible and deny the active indwelling in our lives today.

If we treat the restoration movement as a destination rather than a journey, the situation today is where we end up. If instead, the purpose of the journey is following Christ, then we are on the right path and though each of us starts from a different location and each has different experiences along the way, we will all end up in the same place eventually, in the arms of Jesus.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The More Better Church

Thinking about the perfect church.

If I am to assume that the church I am at is imperfect is it not reasonable to assume that I should look for one closer to perfection. Given that, which church would meet the criteria of being closer to perfection? What is the measure of the perfect church? Is there one around that might be perfect?

Absent answer to these questions, does it really matter which building or which group I associate with on a regular basis? The fact that this church is more better than that one in this area but less better in some other area causes a conundrum. I am left to judge which areas are most important to be better at.

When asked what was the most important thing to be better at, Jesus said (2 things) "love God, love everyone else." So the more better church would be the one that practiced these 2 things as most important.

How many times when looking for a group to associate with have I looked to these 2 standards? Do these people love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength? Do these people love their neighbors as themselves? And if I am to live out those 2 things, then does associating with a single group to the exclusion of others even make sense?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

More Than I Am

This was the devotional thought I gave tonight with much trepidation. I was worried I might be boo'd off the podium. But apparently it made some sense and wasn't too ranty.

You may not like what I’m going to say tonight. I don’t like some of it. Recently I’ve been feeling that there’s a lot more to this Christian Life than what I’ve been living. Is this all God has called us to be? In our often works centered Christianity we talk about the need to DO more. But what Christ has for us is to BE more.

He doesn’t call us not to steal. He calls us not to want to steal.
He doesn’t call us to refrain from impure actions. He calls us to refrain from impure thoughts.
He doesn’t call us not to kill. He calls us to not insult and hate and look down on.
He doesn’t call us to worship Him. He calls us to be pulled so strongly to him that we can’t help but worship Him.
He doesn’t call us to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, heal the sick. He calls us to be filled with compassion so great that we can’t help but serve those around us.

What keeps us from being more? I can tell you that for me it is:  Fear. Insecurity. Complacency. Laziness. I’m perfectly comfortable in my life. Good family, good job, plenty of stuff.
And doesn’t Jesus accept us just as we are? We just sang “Just as I Am.” Yes, he does, in all our sin and imperfections, he welcomes anyone into his kingdom. But once there, we are not done. The new addition to the body is just beginning the journey, she has not arrived. The destination is being transformed to be like Jesus. That’s a long way to go.

What else holds me back? I am burdened by legalism. I am burdened by traditions held up as law that do not permit growth or change. I truly appreciate Jim’s lessons on Dependable Doctrine. As much for what he has not said than what he has said (though he’s not done yet). And his lessons on the Spirit, calling us to broaden our horizons and let the power of the Spirit live in and work through us. I am burdened when I want to be more, but those around me are just fine where they are. We have been complacent too long. Our heritage of restoring the New Testament church is done; somewhere along the way we figured we got close enough.

I’m burdened when I see our young people leaving the church in such great numbers. I worry for my own sons. Am I leading them in the right way? Our youth are not leaving because we’re not teaching them the right lists or memory verses. They’re not leaving because we didn’t pray enough before dinner, because we let them watch too much TV or play too many video games. They’re not leaving because they don’t know the stories. They’re leaving because they’re not part of the story. They’re leaving because when they ask the tough questions, we have nothing beyond trite sayings, traditions, and doctrine to offer them. They’re leaving because they see the church as an organization rather than an organism. They see a religion based on rules rather than a relationship. They see groups of people treated as second class citizens of the kingdom. They see a call to uniformity rather than unity. They see “Just As I Am” to mean “Just As Long As You’re Like Us”.

I want to be more… and yet I don’t. I don’t seem to want to take the steps necessary to be more. At least I haven’t taken those steps yet. Change is hard. Growth is hard. Snakes shed their skin. Butterflies leave the warmth of their cocoon. Birds fly out of their mother’s nest. What Christ has called us to be is hard. And sometimes we have to leave the warm (or extra chilly) confines of this building, to make it so.

I heard a statement recently that has stuck with me. “God didn’t give the church a mission. He gave the mission a church.” God put all of you here to help me be who he wants me to be. More than what I want, more than what I am. As a community, what are you doing to help me be more than what I am now? What are we doing for our young people, for the deaf, for the ladies, for the people of this community to help us all be more?