A Christian’s Options

This is the third article in the series, following Church Money Problems

Obviously, Christianity requires fellowship.  We are commanded “forsake not the gathering of the saints.”  We can’t do it alone.  How, then, do we find the “right” fellowship and gathering?

The answer we created for ourselves is more difficult and complicated than it should be.  (Our attitude should be, “I am a member of all the Christians in <my home town>.)  First, because we splintered ourselves into pigeon-hole groups of generally myopic focus, like, “is the communion actually, substantially, nearly, or just representative, of His body?” and “Do we sprinkle, dip, pour, or immerse ourselves for real baptism?”  Some say these are very important issues . . . and they are!   We should never stop talking about them until Jesus returns.  But we did stop talking when we separated.  Now, we just do it the way our denomination always did it, and ignore those who do it differently.  Without a thought.

Then we went a step beyond reason.  We let people who had no business in the pulpit or in leadership preach and lead, and took on “members” who are not members of Christ’s body!  Rather than inviting and encouraging them to attend, we signed them up to “share” in the direction and administration of the body.  That’s somewhere between letting kindergartner’s teach the class, and having prisoners control the jail.

Can we get back to something healthy?  Yes, of course!  It seems, however, that we might have to recreate the fellowship — and not through another denomination!  We need to work at de-denominating.  I spent six years preaching in a small country church.  It had been a Wesleyan fellowship, that dropped the “official” title and took on a Methodist minister, then a few variable denominational and independent baptists, then a Pilgrim Holiness preacher, then me.  Whatever I am.  Christian.  It was small enough to adapt, and bold enough to call out challenges during my sermons.  Usually spot on, valuable questions, and often embarrassing.

<Your denomination here> needs that.  If not in the way our little congregation “took what they could get,” but there is plenty of room for Christian “guests” in your pulpit, and Christian “guests” in their pews.  Guests who can and will challenge strange doctrines.  Make noise, but be polite.

If your denomination is “corporate,” you may have to resort to radical means.  “If you will not address this issue in a theologically sound Christian manner, pastor, I will send my weekly tithes and offerings to third world countries that will use it preach the Gospel and serve a needy community.”

Our piddling $50 goes a long way when we get to send it to Christian orphanages in Africa and Pakistan.  It hardly affects whatever fellowship we have joined, but a dozen people like us might make a difference.  100 would.  1,000 might create a vital revolution.  Let the interlopers, anti-Christian, and syncretists have it.

10,000 unitarian, agnostic, and other strange fellowships will not harm the body of Christ, until and unless they run Christ’s Church on earth.  Continued participation works against the whole Church of God, breaks it up more and more, little by little, and might really bring back the first Century faith, with real Christians gathering secretly in the shadows and being fed to the lions.

 

Church Money Problems

This article is the Second in a Series. Start here.

Wealth, especially property, becomes important to any of man’s organizations.  It has always been so.  We read of greed in the story of Abraham, and subsequent Bible stories, including Judas Iscariot, right up to Ananias and Sapphira’s lie about “giving all” in The Acts of the Apostles.

Any “real” church (local Christian fellowship) can usually be trusted with its own purse strings, but as soon as it becomes centralized and controlled from afar, it attracts a different crowd.  The new crowd may start honestly, but the size of the common pot becomes a dreadful lure.  The largest mainstream denominations — Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. — are fine examples.  They want it all, and coordinate their facilities to be “generous and cooperative” in every “mission.”

Judas is the best illustration.  He kept the money.  Is it any real surprise that he was the betrayer?  So, it seems, is the story of big, central organizations.  And make no mistake, denominations are organizations.

Why do we have them? We read in our confessions that “The Church is catholic. . .”  That means “one,” but we are far from one!  By one list, there are 33,000 denominations!  (That includes all “independent” groups as a separate denomination.)  Our long list of denominations include everything from non-believers and Unitarians to syncretist and Agnostic fellowships that have no Bibles to be found.  The unifying element of most is a desire to “assemble” regularly (forsake it not!) and take an “offering.”  (Give generously!”

Generally speaking, denominations are a consortium of like-minded believers who contribute to a central pool for mutual support, common books, hymnals and literature sources and authors, shared resources, coordinated legal and ethical power, and the ability to allow “transfers” as people move about.  “The Umbrella Plan.”

Some denominations restrict their purse-strings so carefully that every dollar you give is the property of the denomination, which then re-designates a pittance to the local congregation — a Marxist system.  Others have the essence of a “license” to operate in their name, with virtually no qualifications for accuracy or doctrine.  Most are included in a category of “other,” which includes everything in between.

What does the big corporate structure attract?  Administrators and accountants, directors, lawyers, poll takers, radicals, reformers, and those with a large salary as a primary motivation. (Theologians are cheap, and they get to do whatever they like in these corporations. What they come up with is seldom considered anyway.)

Special interests have become vigorously organized competitors in that denominational fray.  Political, economic, and lifestyle reformers being chief among them.  “Growth experts” have their own place — some are even Bible reading Christ-believers, jaundiced by a job title that may not fit the established doctrine.  No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – Matthew 6:24

How can a Christian compete?  Spoiler alert: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”.”

Next: A Christian’s Options

Church Considerations

The Church is often considered the place where worship occurs, as in “where do you go to church?”  It is a problem that may be central to many, if not most, church problems. Reserve your venom against me until the end of this series, because I am not suggesting the elimination of denominations, nor an abhorrence of religious buildings, but please give this series prayerful thought:

At the very foundation of any 501(c)3 “church” there is a problem of property, wealth, salaries, and denominational bickering that serves too often as a division. Consider Luke’s account of the payment of taxes.

Jesus “perceived their craftiness” in trying to escape paying taxes, and He said, “‘Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’

What is the Church?  The Church proper is the body of Christ.  The whole body of Christ. Jesus says this very clearly in Matthew’s Gospel, 16:13-19:

Jesus said to Peter, “’But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’  And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus built the church on a man.  Peter means “rock.” No mention of wealth. No statement of power. As Paul told Timothy, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” As Christians, our wealth is stored up in heaven.  At least theoretically, right?

The Episcopal Church has several hideous examples many of us have seen.  I spent several years in a “formerly Episcopal, now Anglican” congregation.  That church had property stolen and the Pastor and his family were locked out in the street because of nonconformity to corrupt doctrine.  I also have a friend who was defrocked by the Methodist Church and kicked off the property for teaching “Calvinist heresy.” (They did not call it that, but there is no clearer term for some of his Bible Studies.)

My own “Youth Pastor” as a young teen in the (Congregational) United Church of Christ was a homosexual. He moved to South Dakota. He came back to “take me to lunch,” and propositioned me to be his house boy on my 18th birthday.  I was not a Christian (nor was the congregation.), I was also not a homosexual.  He did not care about that. He offered me money, a job, and a nice place to live. I left, got drunk, and egged his rental car.

How can we understand these things?  Corruption?  Oh, yes.  Unbridled power? Absolutely. Foolishness, ignorance, and rabid ambition? Yep. Lack of accountability. Sure. Sinful human nature? Right at the core. All that and more. But all of this begs the question: “Why? And how?”

All of these examples are built on three specific problems: Property, Income, and Authority. You can not “buy off a Christian,” but you can buy the deed to ourr property and control all of its activities. Actually, focus on one specific problem: That name on the coin. Jesus perceives the craftiness.

Continued tomorrow.
Next article in the Series: Church Money Problems

Only Bible Study for Now

If this blog is to continue, it will focus on one exclusive topic.  I choose Bible Study, for a lot of good reasons. I choose to start with errors that are destroying the visible, denominational Church.

This page went dormant a couple of  months ago, for a few very good reasons.  The new entries fell off because the blog was not being read.  Knowing that I can write, and knowing that the material was sound and accurate, led to a number of conclusions.

What is most important generally fails to seem important until we know it actually is important.  We, the People, prefer to fight in active battles rather than consider why we fight. or ultimately, what we’re fighting to achieve.  At one point the hits on this page soared because I was addressing a huge headline capturing event.  Readership settled immediately to a terrible low after that.  Low enough not to bother.

Some vital thoughts are hard to grasp.  At least they were for me.  Trying to briefly explain them is important because the ideas are worth understanding.  They should be foundational anchors for everything that follows.  Most foundational issues are difficult, and we often think we already “know enough.”

I certainly understand the idea that “this is hard, and I have no interest in the remote history or deep foundations for what I already believe.”  But that never makes up for the importance of it.  A solid foundation prevents cracks in our understanding.  Cracks that can lead to complete collapse.

I also have presented ideas unknown in the mainstream — even inconsistent with fringe thinking. Yet those ideas are the foundation for everything we tend to believe. I guess you have to discover their importance in order to look for them, and those might just be the limited readership that still find this blog.  I hope so, and I am leaving everything here for those people who really want to know.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I write what I know, and only what I know.  I am somewhat eclectic. That has meant an inconsistent blog.  If somebody finds a “good thought” on my page, they might return to see something totally obscure and unrelated.

I’m not tech savvy.  Some day it would be nice to figure out how I can separate my material more practically, so readers who are interested in a life with Type I diabetes or soil science or Christian cultural stuff or Political stuff don’t have to see each other. Now I sew hiking gear because I hike. That could turn away ther rest of my readership.

In the meanwhile, due to my greatest interest of life, and because of an important new “cause” I am participating in, the next several posts (at least) will only concern themselves with Scripture, Biblical perspective, Christian culture, and the love of Jesus Christ. The most important stuff in the world.

Choosing Scripture as the exclusive subject of this blog might just completely break davedelany.com, or it might cure the problem.  At this point, I may have a new connection to readers who may benefit, and that is what it’s all about.  I don’t do this “just to be heard.”  I write because it would be a shame to go to my grave wasting the entire history of everything I’ve studied, and that’s what I do. Study. Learn. Study. Learn.

I plan to start with a very important contemporary issue: Social justice vs Christian justice vs Earthly justice.  They are not the same. Not even close.