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“Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God;”

– 1 Thessalonians 4:1

 

One of my friends says that he, who has been in church all his life and saved for most of it, always tries to pay attention to gospel presentations during sermons, because it is so good to be reminded of these truths, to agree with them still, that we are great sinners undeserving of our Great Savior, who is nevertheless our Redeemer, Friend, and King.

 

Many of my friends, and I am often among them in this, feel that when speaking happens at church gatherings, it is rarely that satisfying, thought-provoking, insightful teaching that we long for.  We are honestly bored, and also get this puffing feeling that others might need the simple and lowly instruction offered in these messages, but we are beyond that.  I still see this in myself even though it has been some years since I realized that not all speech in church ought to be intended to teach (1 Corinthians 14:26).

 

In the New Testament, it is shown that there are multiple speaking giftings to be used for building up the Church.  Among them is teaching.  But there is also prophecy, exhortation, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, tongues and their interpretation.  In Hebrews, when we are commanded not to forsake assembling together, this comes as part of an admonition to consider one another to stir up love and good works, and that when we gather, we are to “exhort one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25).  Paul tells Timothy to “Preach the word! …Convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching,” and also to “Give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”  This seems to have been a model in at least some synagogues at the time as well, that after reading from Scripture, they offered a time where those present could offer exhortations to the congregation (Acts 13:15)

 

John the Baptist, the great prophet, “with many other exhortations, preached to the people.”  Judas and Silas, prophets in the book of Acts, “exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.” (Acts 15:32) Prophecy, though sometimes an otherwise unknown revelation including foretelling and rebuke, is sometimes associated with timely and relevant exhortation: “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” (1 Corinthians 14:3)

 

When we read Paul’s letters, he often says that the congregations that are recipients of his letters have already been instructed, and do not need a repetition of the lesson.  But he still speaks to the topic.  Why?  I think it is likely that Paul was exhorting them.  Peter explicitly says, “For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding [you],” (2 Peter 1:12-13)

 

What is exhortation?  First the Greek, parakaleo, often translated, besides “exhort”, as “comfort”, “encourage”, and “beseech”.  The English dictionary defines “exhort” this way: “strongly encourage or urge someone to do something”.

 

I know for me that I need reminded.  I benefit a lot from hearing people agree that doing the right thing is worthwhile.  “[B]ut exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13) So I want to receive exhortation, not being discontent because I hoped for a stimulating teaching, but rejoicing that I am in company with people who support me in good works, good words, and good attitudes.

 

Jesus exemplified this in His letters to the churches, as dictated in Revelation (chapters 2-3). Not much of it is introduction of new doctrines or ways of doing things.  He is, rather, comforting them with encouragement about what they are doing well, and pleading for them to do what they know to do.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Hebrews says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled…” In the United States, our legal system calls things “marriage” that the Bible most certainly would not. But if we only looked at that one verse from Hebrews, we could believe that the thing called marriage that isn’t, is “honorable”. We could pull in other teachings about marriage and how great it is and what it means spiritually, and encourage people to accomplish those great things and represent those great truths by practicing the thing falsely called marriage. If this stood for a few generations, most people would forget that it is a perversion of what the Bible calls marriage.

What if there are other Christian practices that this has happened to, in the forgotten past? How do we trust that what we understand to be the biblical and Christian practices of Church gatherings, pastoring, church leadership and decision-making, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, speaking in tongues, laying on of hands, ordination, etc. are the things the Bible is discussing?

Like we can with marriage, we can compare other Scriptures to our practices, right? We can ask, “Did God say anything else about these practices? Did God address what we are doing, regardless of what it is called, in positive or negative ways?”

I believe it is possible for God to reveal corrections to us* if we are humbly seeking Him, and if He wants to at the moment. It seems like sometimes He doesn’t want to, and I’m not quite clear why.

I want to have respect for generations of believers who have been inviting God’s discernment, and to value their conclusions. I don’t see any honest way to do this without acknowledging that there have been stretches of time where Christianity (the public institution, anyway) has promoted false understandings of things, and it has taken a long time to straighten some of them out. I have to acknowledge that different parts of the Church, distanced by geography (at least) have for long periods of time held different beliefs from one another.

How much weight should we put on our own experiences? If our experiences seem to line up with a teaching, and be fruitful for the Kingdom of God, does that indicate that these understandings and practices are the things God intends?

*Who ought “us” to be, though? Is it my job, without holding a position of authority in the Church, to discern these things? For myself? For the Church? For society? Is it my job to say anything to others if I believe I have discerned that our conventional practice is wrong?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Abdicated Discipleship

 

This week I read an article at The Wall Street Journal, spring-boarding from Rick Santorum’s recent controversies about birth control to a commentary on the societal effects of contraceptives.  For my purposes, I’m going to sum up part of their report:

 

Before birth control, women stipulated that they would only have sex with a man willing to take care of any resulting children (either only married sex or sex with the promise of marriage should she conceive).

 

After birth control and legal abortion, many women became willing to have sex, feeling like there was less potential responsibility attached.

 

These women’s willingness to fornicate raised the pressure on other women to also fornicate – even when they were less able to use birth control, or unwilling to abort.  Men began expecting sex as part of a premarital relationship – and if one woman wasn’t willing to give it, they could leave her and find someone who was, without commitment.  Why sacrifice yourself to take on the responsibilities of marriage?

 

As I read the above view of history, my brain worked to find the solution.  Obviously my hope is to marry a good man who believes that sex is sacred to marriage, and hasn’t jumped on board with the trends in this country.

 

Men in the secular world pressure women to have sex or do without relationships.  Men in the secular world make marriage hard to come by.  But what’s the excuse for men in the Church?  Why is marriage hard to come by for a Christian woman?

 

The norm, the expectation, for a man living in the United States is to go through a series of dating relationships, enjoying the benefits of intimacy, eventually getting around to marriage when he’s been with a woman for a long time and has a good job to (not support her and her children; she works and there will be far less children than in marriages of the past; but:) fund the engagement ring, wedding, and honeymoon.  Men in this country are not taught self control or responsibility – nor the value of marriage and fatherhood (only obligations of the two).  They are not equipped.

 

Because our secular world doesn’t tell stories about good men pursuing women with purity, marrying them, and fathering children – our Christian men are also unequipped.  No one is training the men outside the Church, so the men inside the Church aren’t being taught the necessary life skills either.

 

Isn’t that last point part of a much bigger problem?  Since when did the Church depend so much on the unchristian world to teach and disciple people?  Why don’t we have an alternative story, an alternative school of sorts?

 

Is it because the Church has made it our goal to blend with the world around us?  Is it because we have refused to be separate and holy, refused to be creative, and refused to labor in building the kingdom of God?  We convert citizens of the world to belong to thekingdomofGod– but is our task to transform their institutions as well?  Or have we been given a different kind of material to build a completely unique society?  Are we building their culture or God’s?

 

In God’s kingdom, singleness has great value – not in avoiding responsibility and commitment, but in refocusing those virtues to the building of this other culture.  In God’s kingdom, marriage is part of the typological design, where institutions and interactions breathe testimony to and imitation of the love of God.  It is to be sought and desired by those called thereto, prepared for and invested in.  Bearing children in a stable family is made to bring the next humans up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  It is not supposed to be a regrettable consequence of giving in to lust.

 

Are there common features of the Christian community and the kingdom of the world to which the Church has lazily abdicated its roles?  Of course.  One of the powerful tactics of our Enemy (against whom we are supposed to be waging offensive war – in other words, building God’s kingdom for His purposes using His ways) is to take things that were created to be an instrument in the godly culture, and to take them out of their context and twist them just enough that they are ineffective.  By doing this, he gives people the impression that they are still practicing the good things God ordained.  They are also in little danger of those practices accomplishing what God intended them for.  And the more we get used to the twists and decontextualizations, the more the Enemy can bring the things farther away and the more he can morph what they actually are, still lying that they are the things we read in the Bible.

 

1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

 

1 Timothy 4:4-5, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:  For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Divided the Movie

 

Made by a young pair of brothers, Divided the movie is the film version of the Family Integrated Church propaganda.  Careful oversight was given by Scott Brown, of the NCFIC, and he was also interviewed extensively in the documentary.  The film follows the research of Philip  Leclerc into the fruits, philosophies, and history of the youth ministry church model.

 

Divided consists mostly of interviews.  It begins by talking to the authors of Already Gone, Britt Beamer and Ken Ham, who discuss the statistics about youth leaving the Church and at what age they stopped believing orthodox Christianity.  One problem they identify with modern youth ministry is the lack of substance being presented in lessons and sermons at events.  This leads to man on the street shots of students after a Christian concert, and surveys of various youth leaders and conference directors for youth pastors, showing the pervading philosophies of being relevant and giving the students an emotional experience – intentionally not dealing with points of Christian doctrine beyond Jesus’ love and sacrificial death.

 

Some former pastors and youth leaders are interviewed about why they left the youth ministry model (much as the filmmaker’s parents had chosen to do).  An enlightening testimony suggested that teaching the “right things,” worldviews and Christian theology, still resulted in a majority of students leaving the faith by the end of high school.  This presents a contrast to the first segment, where the flawed worldview of average youth ministry was uncovered.  One church planter stated that if you just read the Bible, you would not think of doing church the way we do it today; his church is trying to function more biblically, and one aspect of that is to eliminate youth ministry.

 

Next is what I see as the strong point, the most useful part of the documentary, dealing with the history of age-segregated church, beginning with the origins of Sunday school classes for children.  The rest of the movie seems unlikely to enlighten or persuade anyone, as the philosophies of each side (pro-youth ministry and pro-family-based discipleship) are not tested against a biblical standard.

 

Afterward, Philip Leclerc interviews a series of leaders in the FamilyIntegratedChurchmovement, who point out that the Bible’s prescription for discipling children is that their parents train them up, and that youth ministry – separate from the main meetings and activities of the church – is never mentioned in the Bible.  Questions are brought forward, like the argument that since parents are not taking responsibility for training their own children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, if the Church doesn’t, the youth will fall through the cracks.

 

I found a few things lacking in Divided.  At the end of the movie, I felt that the criticism against youth ministry was directed at its fruit: people who abandon belief in God and the Bible.  But the alternative put forward is not judged by the same measure.  I remain curious how successful family-centered discipleship and family-integrated churches are at retaining the next generation.  The filmmaker’s mentors are full of ideals which they claim are biblically based.  If the fruit is different from what statistics show for youth in the past several decades, this gives us hope.  If the fruit is the same, perhaps more is going on than negligent parenting and segregated churches.

 

The movie relies on the worldview of its audience to refute the postmodernism of most youth ministries which is put on display in the first half of the film.  Though presented as the unwanted results of age-segregated ministry, we are left to judge what is wrong with the youth interviewed based on our own notions – whether we would judge them for their style of music or dress, for their poor communication skills, for holding to false doctrines about creation, for caring about authenticity and relationship, for lacking discernment, for laziness, for postmodern relativism.  And if we only notice a couple of these, perhaps we are absorbing the rest of their subtle messages as true – or maybe we are judging everything they say as wrong because of the other things they are packaged with.

 

This highlights the next difficulty I had with the movie: some of the youth and youth leaders made really good points about what is valuable to people, what they expect – even need – to find at church.  When a student says he is looking for people who will tell him the truth and be real with him, and that he values a mentor for being involved in his life, surely the Church could learn from those needs.  A woman who leads training for youth pastors points out that they need to be relevant to the everyday lives of kids.  True – who has more relevance to the ins and outs of a young person’s life than the family he lives with?  Who is more real to him than his own parents?  But this point was not made, this challenge not extended to parents who are choosing to take up the biblical mandate to be spiritual leaders to their children.  Also, those concerns recognized by the representatives of youth ministry are really universal needs, not applicable just to teenagers, but also to adults.

 

Throughout the movie, the experts skirt the issue that the way we do church is fundamentally unbiblical.  We have not sought God’s design for our gatherings and Christian life.  The Church that was intended to be a community has become an institution full of programs, and people fill slots and categories and statistics instead of being directed by needs and gifts in the Body.  Perhaps parents are abdicating their spiritual roles because the Church isn’t allowing discipleship to happen among its members, leaving parents ill-equipped to train their children – but also leaving pastors ill-equipped, unsupported by the edification they are supposed to receive from the rest of the Church.

 

Finally, there is the question of whether people who are middle school, high school, and college age ought to be considered adults, invited and expected to contribute their spiritual gifts (if they are believers*) to the unity and edification of the whole church just as the rest of adults ought to be (but often are not).   I say “the rest of” because until the last hundred years, people in their mid-teens and beyond were counted adults.  In the very least they were not considered children.  And on the assumption that youth ministries are dealing with children rests the crux of the argument made by the Family Integrated Church proponents.  They argue that parents own the responsibility for the spiritual growth of their kids.  But if they’re not kids, in the biblical sense to which the commands would apply…

 

And even if they are children, if they are saved*, they are members of the body of Christ and the instructions about Church should apply to them.  They ought to receive instruction and admonition from any believer who is so gifted and led.  Parents are responsible, and not to shirk their duties towards the children God has entrusted to them, but they are not alone, and do not own exclusive rights to their child’s discipleship.  Perhaps they ought to do “catechizing” and “worldview training” at home instead of expecting it to be done at church.

 

I appreciate the call Divided puts out to parents to fulfill their God-given roles in the family.  The documentary shows the variety of people who believe in family integration, and the different reasons people practice it.  Exhorting the Church to be unified by ending age segregation is a great start.  When asked about children whose parents are not believers (the original target of Sunday schools), Family Integration proponent Scott Brown suggested an intense, personal solution: sound families should bring those children into their home during the week to witness to them and disciple them (sending them back to their own families with deference to the parents’ authority), and have those children sit with their family during church meetings.  The family is upheld as an important player in education and morality.  Ultimately, Divided exalts God for designing well, however dismal the results of man’s corruptions of church and family.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

*If a child is not yet a professing follower of Christ, should he be required to attend Church gatherings with his parents?  Should he be allowed to participate if he is there?

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What if the Bible isn’t enough?  What if God desires us to have more of a relationship with Him than a hermeneutical understanding of morality and doctrine?  And isn’t that what the Bible teaches: walk in the Spirit, walk by faith, the Spirit will guide us into all truth, despise not prophesying?

If you’re anything like me, first you rejected these speculations.  Then you couldn’t stop thinking about them, and started reading the Bible in a new light, considering the possibilities.  And now that you’re seriously tempted to believe in continuing revelation, you’re scared.  I’m not very good at explaining this fear.  I think about how I have relied on the Bible so much.  How do I appeal to fellow believers about their belief and practice except on a universally accepted standard?  How do I witness to nonbelievers except by demonstrating the inerrancy (internal consistency and outward truth) of the Bible?  Can I claim that internal consistency proves anything when that was a test for which books made it into the Canon or not?  Supposing God does speak to me, how will I know it’s Him?  What if He speaks to someone else?  Why should I submit to what He speaks through them?  How will believers be on the same page, with each one (or at least each congregation) receiving his own revelation?

Maybe I’m scared because I never dreamed I would be here, believing these things.  And where else will it lead?  Maybe if I need to hear from God today, or in the future, I have to trust that He will speak; I can’t just sit comfortably holding in my hand all He was ever going to say.  I have to believe in a God who is able to communicate not just to me, but to people around me.  I have to believe in a God whose mercy is so great that even when I’m sinfully not listening, He’ll cushion me from making mistakes too terrible.  But I need His mercy every time, because whenever I’m not listening to Him, I’m doing my own thing.  So maybe I don’t like this belief because it puts me out of control.  I can’t force revelation from God by being smarter or studying longer or even by asking the right teacher.

On the other hand, I like it.  The God of the universe is speaking to real live people today.  He has designed a community for His people that is interdependent.  We get to be a part of His ministry both to those who have believed and to those who have not.  God has not left us alone to make up our own decisions.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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This October my friends and I created yet another Pigfest.  It was a short two hours attended by about two dozen debaters.  There were four new Pigfesters.  A few children showed up and were passed around and played with.  The weather was fine.  My living room was packed, and the kitchen hosted an autumn afternoon feast of snack food.

Topics:

Pain and difficulty are the best ways to learn. The term learning applies to any lesson you need to learn.  You can learn bad as well as good things through pain.  But you can learn bad things in other ways, too, so the method is neutral.  “Best” in the proposition implies good.  But do we really mean most effective?  Or are we talking about the most moral way, or the most compassionate way, to learn?  Difficulty makes a student a part of the experience.  It is what makes you feel immersed in the situation.  Jesus learned obedience through suffering.  Failure, a frequent side effect of difficulty, is a memorable teacher.  It’s personal.  Perhaps pain and difficulty are good ways to learn some things, but not all things.  Does it make a difference if the pain is voluntary or inflicted from the outside?  Does the student want to learn?  An example was given where hearing and understanding are sometimes more effective than fighting through difficulty.  Different personalities learn in different ways.  Will we, if we grant this proposition, discount people who didn’t go through as much?  Should we seek out pain and difficulty?  It is wise to learn from others’ mistakes, from their pain and difficulty.  To what extremes should we seek out pain and difficulty?  Should we pick a wife who is opposite of what we think would be “compatible”?  Look at who Jesus picked for His wife.  They who are forgiven most love the most.  But we are taught in the Bible to not intentionally choose the wrong thing.  People can make mistakes without wicked intent.  Lessons are ineffective if the student is unwilling.  Where did you learn your best lessons?  Learning the clutch on a manual car is difficult.

Use of medical drugs ought to be discouraged because they treat effects while hiding causes of pain and illness and issues and are equal to the sorcery spoken against in the Bible. Is there a difference between pain medications, antibiotics, and anti-depressants for the purpose of this resolution?  Pain meds ought to be discouraged as instant solutions, as the first response.  How do we find out what’s really wrong if we suppress all the symptoms?  Medications are the result of lots of study.  Pills also enable reckless lifestyles.  By substituting for immunity, they weaken the body’s natural immune system.  But should people be required to use natural functions to their potential, without aid, like the ability to walk across the state?  If we were to grant competition and survival of the fittest, we are unnaturally increasing the survival chances of those who are not genetically and biologically as fit as others.  Pain medications are compassionate.  Side effects of some drugs are worse than what they are treating.  Some medications thwart your body’s own recovery system and make you worse in the long run.  When we use medications, we are not dependent on God.  What about sorcery?  Is it possible that sorcery is associated with pharmacy because sorcerers borrowed some legitimate techniques from doctors?  Was the herb itself wrong, or the context?  What about mind-altering drugs like LSD?  Do they open you up to the occult?  If you know the cause, are pain medications ok?  Like in childbirth?  (Isn’t pain in childbirth part of the curse?  Is it wrong to try to get around it?)  Antibiotics actually treat causes.  Relieving pain and curing diseases is trying to be most like nature before the Fall.  Is there a difference, for this resolution, between natural medications and synthetic ones?  Back to witches.  Maybe the word was translated sorcery instead of doctor for a good reason.  Are mind-altering drugs always bad?  They are bad to the point that they put you outside of your own mind.

There are legitimate reasons for polygamy, benefits from its practice, and it is acceptable in God’s sight. According to the prophet in the Bible, David’s wives, aside from Bathsheba, were gifts from God.  In history, especially biblical history, we see problems associated with many wives, some of which are peculiarly the result of polygamy.  There are blessings also, such as the ability to have lots of kids; delegating responsibilities.  What about the concept of two becoming one?  Isn’t that how God created marriage?  Yet God never condemned polygamy.  The New Testament requirement for elders is that they be the husband of one woman.  If we as Christians are to submit to the government, here in the USA polygamy is wrong.  1 Corinthians 7 teaches that each should have their own wife or husband, and that they possess each other’s bodies.  It was not a sin under the Old Testament.  Does it have benefits to the women, or just to the men?  What is a reason to practice polygamy?  Marriage was often culturally the only means of provision and protection for women.  Polygamy extends this to women who would otherwise have been single.  Women in some cultures derive their worth from bearing children, and the only moral way to do that is in a marriage.  War decimates the male population, leaving an imbalance corrected by one man marrying more than one woman.  You can take care of a woman without marrying her.  Fathers can care for single women.  It is impossible for there to be that oneness that marriage is supposed to create between a man and his multiple wives.  Marriage is a picture of how God wants the relationship to be with His Church.

Lack of submission by Christian wives is a major reason for the degeneration of Church in the West. We are not talking about Feminism as the movement, but about the specific point of wives not submitting (to their husbands).  What is the evidence that wives are unsubmissive?  The pervasiveness of jokes about women submitting is a cultural recognition that something is not right.  Has Christianity degenerated?  Evidence of famous pastors falling into sin.  Lack of submission comes from lack of respect (of wives for husbands).  But there is also lack of leadership from men.  There has been a drastic stepping down of men in their homes BASED ON the disrespectful reaction of their wives.  The blame is not solely on either, but it is a cycle.  How can this phenomenon be blamed for the degradation of the Church?  What does it do to the Church?  Marriage is an example of how the Church should respond to Christ.  Disobedience to God’s command (in this case, for wives to submit) makes us ineffective Christians.  Disrespect is not a license for men to be sinful.  Unsubmissiveness discourages leadership.  Women are not edifying men.  Promise Keepers encourages groveling instead of strong leadership.  Manhood and Womanhood should be exercised in the context of real life instead of just demonstrating manliness off hunting or femininity at a scrapbooking retreat.  Is the issue not submitting, or usurping authority, taking on the leadership that belongs to men?  Look at Deborah.  She became the leader in the army, but it was specifically described as a shame to the men for being unwilling to take the lead themselves.  Wives not submitting has an effect on children, who are left confused about authority.  God is not our servant to be bossed around by us; we submit to Him, as the Church.  Noted that one of the first reactions in discussion was to compare or shift blame.  Such avoidance is sinful.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Where do you go to church?

It’s a normal question, and I’m not offended by it.  But in the year since I stopped going to conventional church, I have yet to figure out an easy answer to this question.  I see the horror in friends’ eyes when I tell them I don’t go.  We’ve all known people who walked away from fellowship with believers, or who become apostate to the faith.  There is pity and skepticism if I tell friends I’m still looking.  And when I explain what I’m doing as a matter of practice without going into the reasons, it sounds apologetic.  I’m not sorry for my choices.  I believe in them.

So why do I not go to a church?

Five years ago I led a Bible study on the spiritual gifts.  We looked at what the gifts are, examples of people using them, how they build up the church, and how other believers should respond to them.  In that study I, at least, became convinced that not only was my church broken – but the whole model for “church” that I was familiar with neglected the body-participation and Spirit-ual power and guidance described in the New Testament.

For four years I studied ecclesiology – what the Bible says about the gatherings of believers.  After I’d worked out an idea, mostly based on 1 Corinthians 11-14, of what a church meeting should be like, I discovered some websites about house churches.  My favorite website was New Testament Reformation Fellowship.  On their site are articles about the exact points and questions raised by my study.  The men who contribute to NTRF are from several countries and about ten congregations.  There are people really practicing church like you read about in Acts and the epistles.

But though I was gaining conviction on these things, God was not releasing me from the church I had attended since I was 15.  Church is about God and people, God’s purposes in people.  I am not (even now) released from loving those people or even from fellowshipping with them as I have occasion.  My church was broken, more than its model and more than a church has to be broken (consisting of redeemed sinners).  Many people attending that church were trying to stay to help, to heal, to influence towards the holy and faith-ful.

Finally in 2009 conflict came to a head at my church.  I prayed hard.  God taught me a lot about love.  The result for the church was essentially a split.  For me, I was released from my commitment to that body and that authority.  My family also left that church.  We were then faced with the question of what to do next.  As a family and independently we visited several area churches, without finding any to belong to.

A group that had met for fellowship and Bible study before they left the church continued to meet and my parents joined, contemplating a church plant.  They met in a house and held Sunday meetings.  Members of that group began to explore models for church that appealed to them.  Family-integrated ideas and house church ideas were blended with more traditional ministry models.

Some wanted to expand out of the house.  Others wanted to stay small.  Some wanted to support a full time pastor and others sought bi-vocational leadership.  There were different ideas about the purpose of church: discipleship, evangelism, worship, fellowship?  Which one is the primary goal?  Instead of seeking as a group what the Bible teaches about church, the families mostly went separate ways according to their preferences.

My family had heard about house churches from me for years.  They decided that they believed in house churches, and also in some associated concepts like co-leadership and family integration.  For my part, I am unwilling to join an institution I don’t believe in; I think it would cause problems for them and for me.  I would still like to find a church that follows the 1 Corinthians pattern for church meetings.  Though my parents still meet with some families from our old church, in a house church format, I am concerned that there is still division about the meaning of church and that their practices are somewhat arbitrary and not Bible-based.  I attend a few meetings a month with my family.

Close friends from Awana – and friends of those friends – had developed in 2008 and 2009 a prayer meeting and Bible study.  It was informal, meeting every week or two to share what God had been doing in our lives, the things we were burdened for or convicted about, and Scriptures God had laid on our hearts to share or that had spoken to us during the week.  We spent about an hour each meeting in Spirit-directed prayer, each praying as led.  Our fellowship before and after was sweet, and we often gathered at other times to do ministry or to have parties or to encourage each other.  This was my support during the difficult church split.  And it continues to be God’s provision for a “church”, the closest meeting in my experience to what I’m looking for in a church.

On the side, I also visit a few friends’ churches on Sunday mornings, about 2 out of 4 Sundays.  I visit Sovereign Grace, Cornerstone Chapel, Agape Bible, and Summitview Community in Fort Collins.  Each of these churches has good, God-loving and Jesus-following people who believe in community and whose theology is orthodox and God-exalting.  When I visit them, I think of it as a sort of worship and Bible conference.  I’m also open to visiting other churches occasionally, especially to see people I don’t often get to see – but also to meet new people and see what God is doing in the lives of Christians all over Colorado.

I have a concern about this church practice I’ve adopted, and it is that I have no pastor.  There is no good example of walking in the Spirit whose gift is to shepherd other Christians, guiding and feeding them – none who knows me and my spiritual state whose authority I could submit to and whose leadership I could follow.  But I have been in many conventional churches whose men titled “pastor” do not fit that description, and so I know that there is no easy way to find one.  A pastor, like so many other things, is a gift from God.  And I’m asking God for one still.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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“Have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness.”

I’m a discernment person.  Heresies are a big deal to me.  I tend to notice when teachers or authors or pastors are preaching a different gospel.  But there are other issues, too.  Focusing on tolerance and friendliness with the world – the “seeker-sensitive” movement, for example – is dangerous.  Christians are a light set on a hill, not light camouflaged to look like darkness.  Or another popular… what should I call it?  Not a heresy in the traditional sense, but a dangerous and unchristian worldview or spiritual practice?  Anyway, another one is the borderline gnosticism.  This encompasses mysticism and individualism, focusing on poetic ideas of light versus darkness, denial (or even mistreatment) of the physical, and meditation.  I see connections between seeker-sensitivity and the postmodern mysticism.  Primary in these connections are the exaltation of human effort and experience.  They are ancient perversions of the Christian life, not new, but addressed in the New Testament.

Lately it has become popular to cite “church fathers” in theological debates.  This even if the quote or position contradicts the New Testament.  Though I’m not persuaded of the “sola scriptura” of the Reformation, it did rescue us from centuries of heretical tradition enforced as the authority of the fathers.  (Jesus rebuked the same sin in the Pharisees.)  Many of those historical theologians flirted with or embraced the para-Christian spirituality mentioned above, emphasizing either their personal wisdom or their own mystical experiences as sources of truth superior to the revelation of Scripture.  They practiced this outside of the protective peer-regulation of a Spirit-led Church.  Somehow the doctrine of the indwelling Holy Spirit got exchanged for a belief in inner divinity belonging to an individual.  All of which was much more compatible with the pagan religions encountered as the ancient “Christianity” spread.

And isn’t that something to be concerned about?  Rather than being excited that the enemies of God, the spiritually dead men of planet earth, have portions of truth preserved in their religions, shouldn’t we be devastated at the subtlety of the deceits of the Evil One that has kept men captive to their sin?  (“What fellowship has light with darkness?”)  Instead of finding commonality in spiritual practices of meditation and monasticism and sacrificing to appease the gods – shouldn’t we question those practices?  If the pagans do those things, and if those things are not prescribed by our Lord in the early letters to the churches affirmed by the apostles, why not rather fear a resurgence of paganism within our faith – that the spiritual forces of wickedness have been also distracting us and leading us astray?

In our modern times we tend to disdain the primitive superstitions of pre-Christian peoples.  We think they should have been able to see through the cheap tricks of the medicine men, to rise up against the oppressive shaman and assert reason, the intelligence and ability of individuals.  But a Christian worldview suggests a different interpretation.  It teaches that the devil and demons are real, powerful, able to produce counterfeit signs and wonders to deceive men.  Demon possession is real.  And maybe those pitiable people, observing that reality, live with rituals and talismans approved by their devils – for a time – as a tax on the slaves of the Devil before they are consumed.

For us who have known only the relatively Christian Western world, it is difficult to remember the spiritual battle that is engaged even here.  We are not trained to recognize the spiritual activities of our enemy.  This may be because we have adopted it,  or excused and tolerated it…  False teaching, we believe, has been perpetrated by confused but well-meaning people.  Cultists are mostly nice people whose theology is just a little different from ours.  We wouldn’t want our children converting, but no big deal if our neighbors and coworkers believe in Jesus and good works for their salvation, God and their own divinity.  Many who identify themselves as evangelical Christians see no cause for concern when their church services begin to incorporate incense, or a ladies’ conference suggests repetitive chanting of a spiritual word or phrase as a means of getting closer to God.  Millions of us read and identify with a book that includes a manifestation of Sophia, the Gnostic “goddess” as the incarnation of wisdom.  These ideas and practices are more attractive to the unsaved world, after all (and to many inside the church).  And why shouldn’t they be; they’re familiar whispers, that we are like God, that we come to God on our own terms.

The word profanity is known as a synonym for cussing.  But who knows the word profane?  Who believes that there is a way God wants to be worshiped, a way He has set for people to come to Him – and any other way is so offensive to Him as to bring His righteous wrath?  What is fallen man to tell God why He should accept him?  Who is the liar and deceived to believe he has a hold of truth and wisdom apart from the deliverance and revelation of God?  How dare we think our filthy rags – our own righteousnesses – are acceptable sacrifices to pay for our trespasses against the ways of God?

But it is hard to reject these things, hard to point at those profanities and warn that they are part of the wide path to hell.  I don’t want to believe that my church leader is a false teacher.  I like to believe that my friends are going to heaven.  But how does that honor God?  Is my allegiance to Him or to men?  And how is that compassionate, to ignore the condition of my friends?  Making excuses is easy.  If a man says he believes in Jesus, is it such a big deal if he tolerates sin, if he keeps company with the world?  Also far too simple is reassuring myself that even though a person has not trusted in Jesus, he still seems to be a good influence, telling people to pray and read their Bibles and love their families and be wary of governments and religions out to destroy us.

Yet more and more I believe that those excuses and those subversive people are the biggest threats.  By them people are led from the power and truth of God, or worse – away from the gospel of the grace of God.  People are soothed into ignoring their spiritual neediness.  Those people, those false prophets, are the enemies of God.  And if they are enemies of God, they are enemies of His people.  They are not in your fellowship to encourage you or point you to God.  Though they may feign friendship, it is for diabolical purposes, and they can turn on you at any moment.

So what can we do?  Monasticism and individualism belong to the false religions.  We cannot run away from these dangerous people.  Tolerance and acceptance also correspond to the faith that exalts man over God.  So we cannot be silent or friendly.  Truth and God’s glory invite us to discern the lies and cast them down.  Holiness insists that we take our cues from God, supported by those men and women who exhibit the fruits of being His.  Love demands that we warn people of destruction.  Faith in God teaches us to hope for revival and redemption.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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It’s been over a year now since I began my experiment.  I began it without telling anyone, and only a few people have even asked about it.  (That may be because I am generally so independent in dress and practice that my friends think nothing of an additional quirk.)

Years ago when asked about wearing jewelry in church, I suggested to a group of ladies that we ought to follow the Bible and see what happens, even if we don’t understand it.  To be honest, I have never yet given up braids or gold or other jewelry in church.  And if the spirit of the rule is to avoid displays of wealth, in our American society to have a strand of plastic pearls is not wealthy.  If the rule was to uphold modesty, eschewing distracting appearances even in church, then it might be argued that wearing skirts and hats draws more attention than a braid or bracelet.  But I don’t know.  Maybe my next experiment will be to avoid jewelry and fancy hairstyles.

I’ve known for years that when men take off their hats out of respect: for the Pledge of Allegiance or for a prayer, girls are exempt.  This is a fact I learned from a friend when we were both fourth graders, and her family attended a church that practiced head-coverings.  What has baffled me since is the militant way in which church members of the older generation will go after men and boys wearing their hats in the church building.  They are indignant at the disrespect.  All the while women walk right by without hats or scarves or even those ritualized doilies some denominations employ.  Their own wives sit through church and prayer uncovered.  Women speak in church and teach in church, present special music in church – all without head coverings.

Now I can understand confusion about head coverings.  The passage in 1 Corinthians that goes into the subject is about as unclear as any Scripture you can find.  Hats and hair.  Glory and order of creation.  Nature and angels.  You can do this but we have no such (or other?) practice…  What is strange is the modern hypocrisy.  The same passage that instructs women to cover their heads teaches men to uncover theirs.  And we enforce the distinction for men but completely overlook the women?

This is a relatively new practice, this lack of head coverings.  Even a half-century ago women wore hats to church.  In some parts of the country and in some denominations you can still find the women in proper Sunday attire, where hats are absolutely required.  The “Easter bonnet” is not a unique holiday accessory, but like the rest of traditional Easter dress, it is a fancier edition of the weekly affair.  (We can debate whether Easter ought to be celebrated in this way, or whether Sundays should be distinguished with a unique set of clothes, but not in this article.)

Once upon a time I began to wonder what it meant to be a grown woman.  Or a good woman.  I made myself a list, in theory to refer to it frequently to hold myself accountable.  The list referenced numerous passages of Scripture specifically addressed to women.  It categorized specific instructions under general virtues.  Rather than ignoring the verses about head coverings, I said that a woman ought to respect men and to wear a head covering in church (or some other symbol of her submission).  Then I never tried to practice it, in general excusing myself by reason of having long hair (paralleled with head coverings in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians).

And one day just over a year ago some friends and I were talking about head coverings, how confusing the passage is and how so few Christians we know keep the ordinance.  It was then I remembered that obscure item on my list of godly femininity.  I felt hypocritical to have acknowledged the instruction and never tried to apply it, especially as I debated the subject.  In addition, I became curious.  If I couldn’t deduct from the biblical text the reasons and implications of head coverings, maybe I should try submitting to the custom and see what happened.

First a few superficial observations:  My hat and scarf collection is much larger than it used to be, but I rarely wear the larger hats because I feel so self-conscious in them.  Deciding what to wear to church (or Bible study or prayer meeting) is much more difficult since I must coordinate my outfit to an available head covering.  And when I do other things with my day, my hair and hats must fit with a multi-purpose outfit.  I try to keep at least one hat or scarf in my car in case I spontaneously decide to attend a Bible study.

Some questions that arose:  I don’t want to draw attention to the fact that I’m wearing a head covering, especially since it is more an experiment than a conviction; but isn’t it the point, that there is an outward and observable sign of submission?  Since the instruction is, to be specific, given to women praying or prophesying, if I am listening to prayer at a gathering or not saying anything, should I be covered?  Is the head covering supposed to be only for prayer time and church gatherings, or is it ok for me to have worn the hat all day?  If I’m praying silently to myself, as in spontaneously throughout my days, should I have my head covered?  And if I don’t happen to be wearing a hat when someone asks me to bless the food, should I decline?

In the months since I began my experiment, there have been a few times when I forgot or neglected to wear a hat.  It bothered me.  Partially because perhaps I am developing a conviction on the matter.  The other part is that I feel different.  On occasion I have been at a party when friends started discussing spiritual truth and I felt the lack of something on my head.  I wanted it there.  If you have grown up like me, invited to close your eyes when you pray, you may be able to relate.  Have you ever tried keeping your eyes open during a public prayer?  It’s hard to focus, and you feel a self-conscious.  Or I could compare the feeling to the one I get when I want to lift my hands in worship – or fall to the ground as I pray.

I like to sit on the floor while I’m being taught about spiritual things.  (Which isn’t the same as sitting on the floor during a sermon.)  If I start to realize I’m being taught – or if I crave a Bible lesson from someone who understands something I’m wondering about – I get a mental image of myself getting out of my chair, and going to the floor, back against a desk or a wall or something.  I also get this feeling on my head as though a book has just been lifted off of it.  And I want it back.

Even though Paul says that head coverings are a sign, for other people, I can testify to its effect on me.  I am reminded to be submissive.  To speak for the purpose of edification.  To be mindful of the Holy God I serve.  It helps me to rejoice that men were created first, and women for men – though we certainly benefit from them in their leadership and teaching.

I had been curious whether people would treat me differently if I wore hats and scarves all the time to church.  But it has been hard to determine.  The small reason is that I know that I behave differently wearing them, so that might have something to do with different reactions.  A larger reason is that I have nothing to compare it to.  I started this experiment at the same time that I left my old church, and I have been attending other churches only occasionally.  My regular Bible study is comprised of dear friends who know me so well that nothing like a hat will change how they treat me.

One friend noticed the first time I ever went to church with her that I had my head covered.  She asked whether I always did.  It was early in the experiment and I haltingly said something about trying it out.  Another friend also mentioned it, but not as a question.  Like so many things, she had just taken this aspect of my behavior in stride, made note of it, and accepted it as a reality not requiring discussion.  My parents and siblings and other friends have never brought it up.  I don’t know if they’re afraid to, don’t need to, or haven’t noticed.

For me, I like wearing head coverings when I pray and study the Bible with other people.  I haven’t gained any great insight to the topic.  But it isn’t too hard to keep doing it, so I suppose I will.  With the promise of updates if I ever learn anything else.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Biblically, married couples should not use birth control. The Bible does say that children are a blessing, and commands us to be fruitful and multiply.  Barrenness is in a list of curses that will come on a people or a country that disobeys God.  God controls the womb.  Do we also forbid attempts to get pregnant (in vitro fertilization, for example)?  What about Natural Family Planning – no chemicals, surgeries, or other medical devices?  Is the issue taking control?  Avoiding blessings?  Or not valuing children?  Do we make exceptions for certain couples, for those with dangerous health  problems associated with pregnancy?  Yes, children are a blessing, but God describes many things as blessings, and we do not pursue them all.  Singleness is a blessing.  That blessing excludes parenthood in most cases.  Can you really choose and the blessing still be a blessing?  Who gives blessings?  Wasn’t the command to be fruitful only given to Adam and Eve and repeated to Noah?  It may be our right to pursue blessings, but as Christians, aren’t we supposed to lay down our rights in deference to God?  The Bible describes children as arrows in the hand of a warrior; if Christian couples are declining to have kids, are they shirking their responsibility to further the kingdom of God as best they can?  Our worldview has shifted, even in the last century, to see large families as abnormal or even undesirable.  Before this century it was the common teaching of Catholics and Protestants that birth control was wrong, that God wanted them to accept as many children as He granted.  We have biblical examples, if not mandates, of people regarding blessings.  Did anyone good ever refuse something that was a blessing?  What about the story of Onan where he acted the kinsman-redeemer but specifically avoided the possibility of conception in the union?  He was condemned.  But maybe he was condemned for the motives and implications of the act?

Christians become more like the world as they withdraw from the world. In what way would you describe those prime examples of religious seclusion: Amish and monks in a monastery, as being more like the world?  Worldly is defined as self-centered, reluctant to share our faith.  Though that is not particularly world-like, as they are eager to share their beliefs.  Perhaps it could be argued that Christians withdrawing from interaction with the world are growing less godly or less obedient (are we not called to be salt and light?) rather than more worldly.  There are many monasteries that, while pursuing a life apart, still engage in ministry to the community, to the “world.”  They do teaching ministries and nursing, for example.  Has not the US church become a club, withdrawing from the world in their exclusivity, because we are neglecting the command to reach out?  What made it become a club?  Maybe that itself was a consequence of becoming like the world, and inviting the world in on its terms.  If the world wants to come to church, shouldn’t they want to come for the truth?  Christians are commanded to be somewhat separate: more hospitable to other Christians than to nonbelievers; also to know who is “in” and who is “out” in order that outreach might be a definite, stand-out activity.  We as Christians are known by our love to one another.  Being so separate that the difference is obvious is a witness.  The Bible teaches Christians to engage in BOTH discipleship AND evangelism.  1 John instructs us NOT to love the world or anything in the world.  Those Christian leaders most recognized for being engaged in the world and having a large impact or effect on the world – are they having an impact for the Kingdom of God?  Billy [Graham], Joel [Osteen], and Rick [Warren] are “ruining the kingdom of God.”  Our interaction with the world should be one of confrontation.  And perhaps “Christians” in the US aren’t real Christians, so withdrawing from responsibilities to love their neighbors is a natural reaction.

(First Ever 2 Minute Debate!)  The Sun will go out before Jesus comes back, so we should colonize other solar systems. Jesus said He was coming back soon.  At that point the world had only existed for 4,000 or so years, so the absolute maximum that could have meant would be A.D. 4,000.  There is no way the Sun is burning out in 2,000 years.  If we’re still around then, though, and He hasn’t come back, maybe then we’ll look into colonizing other solar systems.  Plus we have better things to do than worrying about the survival of humanity after the earth.

Confessing sins to fellow disciples is essential for healthy community. Don’t we already confess sins to each other?  It just starts out with, “It was SO cool…”  Seriously, isn’t there a danger of confession turning into bragging?  If I tell you my sins, doesn’t that encourage you to gossip about me?  Disciple is defined as one who is pursuing godliness, trying to grow spiritually.  So the discretion used in confessing to disciples can guard against some dangers.  Another danger is the power of suggestion introducing a type of temptation to others.  But confession could – and should – be made without details.  The benefit of hearing sins confessed is to realize that other Christians are struggling with sin – maybe even the same sin – too.  That gives assurance that the temptation and failure is not a sign of being unregenerate.  Should confession be private (accountability partner) or communal?  History has recorded many times where revival followed public confession.  Pastors often set the example of public confession, apologizing for faults during sermons.  It is probably more important for leaders to confess publicly.  So what?  Now everyone knows that everyone else is a mess just like them.  How does that build healthy community?  Congregations can pray for each other when they know the need, support each other, and rejoice in the victories.  But people don’t have to wait until they’ve conquered sins to start confessing.  And a meeting could involve some confession and some victory reports.  Confession invites intimacy.  Public confession facilitates repentance, whereas not having to tell anyone about it lets a person “get over it” without being truly sorry.  Isn’t God sufficient pressure to invite true repentance?  Being one with God is tied to being one with others.  The Christian response to confession is forgiveness, especially if you were wronged by the sin.  But the Bible does record times when men confessed their sins and received judgment.  Take Achan, whose whole family was stoned with him even after he confessed.  Still, a case can be made that the stoning of Achan’s household was good for the community, which is the wording of the resolution.  Reality has Christians experiencing consequences even though we’re forgiven.

The way Protestants teach salvation by grace alone/faith alone/Christ alone leads people to faith in intellectual assent, not to faith in the Spirit of Christ (true salvation). So we shouldn’t teach that gospel?  Or we need to be very careful how it’s explained?  Christians tend to use terms with people who don’t know what we mean, like faith; in our culture it is understood as intellectual assent.  So if that isn’t what we mean, we need to define our terms or use words that anyone can understand.  Sometimes there aren’t words for concepts (some tribes have been discovered with no word for mercy or forgiveness): in such cases, longer explanations and even demonstrations may be necessary.  Part of the cause of false conversions in America today is that salvation is sold as a ticket out of hell…  But if it is true that we are saved by faith alone, why does it matter how an evangelist explains the gospel?  The gospel of intellectual assent is a Holy Spirit-less gospel; it doesn’t lead them to God.  Isn’t the Holy Spirit capable of using weak words to nonetheless convert hearts?  It is the Christian’s responsibility to be as clear as he can.  When we talk about salvation, we rarely mention that the choice brings a cost: lordship of Christ, sacrificing, how much easier it is to live without morals.  We say “God has a wonderful plan for your life” but look at Paul’s life.  Are we being dishonest?  What about using a word like “mistake” instead of sin?  Doesn’t that give the impression that your rebellion against God was an accident?  But that could be an attempt at using an understandable word when no one knows what sin is anymore.  Are there better words, though, like “wrong”?  Originally it was understood that converting to a certain religion, with its doctrines, had consequences.  It meant a conversion to that lifestyle as well.  How do we know when people are understanding us?  If our lives back up our message, we become our own visual aid.  Even the word saved can be misleading.  Most people don’t experience a feeling of danger because they were born spiritually dead.  They are not presently in Hell, so they don’t realize the importance of being saved from it.  But if you use the word “changed,” that implies that something happens to you but also that you are different.  And you are not only changed, but also changing.  Some people do get saved out of fear of Hell.  But the Great Commission was to make disciples.  To make changed people.  Aren’t Justification and Regeneration equal and indivisible parts of salvation?  Hearing the message of salvation from Hell gives people an appreciation for God’s grace, because they have a concept of His wrath.

Are you tired of being buffeted by your fan?  (Did you even know you were being buffeted?)  Try the new and fantastic Dyson* Air Foil Fan.  It works like a jet engine.  Some people have noted that wind is naturally, uh, well, buffeting, so that style of air propellant might be preferred by some people.  But when is the last time someone invented a new fan?  Start saving now!  *Dyson, the inventor, is now “Sir Dyson.”  He was knighted by the Queen.  That’s how cool his fan is.  (The preceding paragraph should not be taken as an endorsement of Dyson or any of its products or ideas.)

Christians, for efficiency, should focus on saving kids dying of natural causes than the much more difficult task of keeping other people (parents) from killing them, as in pro-life work. Both victims want to be saved.  There is less resistance from authorities and parents to saving people who are starving or without clean drinking water.  Aren’t both causes of death the result of hardened hearts and sinful people?  Maybe even the result of our sin?  So the task involves overcoming hard hearts either way.  But the resolution was about saving lives, not changing hearts.  It is easier to save people – physically – from natural threats.  But the reason to save either children is to give them a chance to hear the spiritual message of salvation by grace in the future.  Don’t pit two good things against each other.  Doing something here in your spare time is easier than packing up the family and moving to Africa to dig wells for drinking water, and corresponds better to a lot of peoples’ callings.  The Bible talks about blood guilt for a nation that commits the shedding of innocent blood; doesn’t that put some priority on us addressing the deaths in our OWN nation?  But our influence isn’t just national anymore; it is global.  And blood guilt is a global phenomenon.  Shouldn’t we start at home?  Don’t do something just because it is easier.  But we weren’t talking about easy; we were talking about efficient.  And efficiency implies limited resources; our God who is sending us to care for the weak and needy is not limited.  Unless you consider that He is limited by human willingness (our willingness to obey or others’ willingness to receive).  Are we going for results?  The biggest number of people helped?  Shouldn’t we just be trying to glorify God in whatever we do?  Is it wrong to use wisdom, taking efficiency into consideration, to make that choice?  Jesus said that thousands were starving but Elijah was sent to only one widow.  So one needs to take into account personal conviction and direction from God.  Have God’s values.  Whatever you do, do it heartily.  Efficiency is a worthy consideration, but not the sole motivator.  We need God’s direction.  And what if those we save by using our energies efficiently end up transforming the world and saving people from other kinds of death as well?  Are we not furthering the kingdom of God by saving multitudes from starvation and disease – thus ingratiating the world to us and our message?

Institutional Church is fundamentally neither worse nor less biblical than any other form of church. Institutional Church is defined as that typical of the United States, including an order of worship, a building, pastors and elders.  Though theoretically the models may have equal ground, consistent tendencies suggest a flaw in the institutional model.  Are home churches any better?  Institutional Churches have the record for longevity.  House churches don’t usually last hundreds of years.  But maybe that isn’t the goal of a house church.  Where size is concerned, Institutional Churches tend to be larger, which guards against false doctrine and gives greater accountability.  Is that true?  Doesn’t the larger congregation provide anonymity, and so hinder accountability?  In denominations, a characteristic of Institutional Church, individual congregations are accountable to the denomination, particularly for their doctrine.  Jim Elliot said the Church is God’s, and it is important to Him, so if He has a way He wants the Church to meet and worship Him, we should do it that way.  [and this is my blog, so I can edit history and give the quote for real: “The pivot point hangs on whether or not God has revealed a universal pattern for the church in the New Testament. If He has not, then anything will do so long as it works. But I am convinced that nothing so dear to the heart of Christ as His Bride should be left without explicit instructions as to her corporate conduct. I am further convinced that the 20th century has in no way simulated this pattern in its method of ‘churching’ a community . . . it is incumbent upon me, if God has a pattern for the church, to find and establish that pattern, at all costs” (Shadow of The Almighty: Life and Testimony of Jim Elliot)  See also my website: www.ChurchMoot.wordpress.com]  The Bible describes a model of church that the Institutional Church does not match.  That is what makes it inferior.  For example, 1 Corinthians 14 says that when the Church gathers, every one has a teaching, psalm, prophecy, tongue – not just a pre-scheduled pastor.  But the Bible also teaches that there should be order, that everyone should not be talking over each other.  Isn’t that an “order of worship”?  The Bible does talk about pastors, though!  What is the role of a pastor?  When the New Testament talks about pastors and apostles and evangelists giving attention to teaching and preaching, doesn’t that suggest the sermon?  Preaching is primarily for evangelism.  Christians are to honor those elders especially who minister in the Word.  Shouldn’t a Christian convicted about these matters try to reform the Institutional Church?  How can he, when the means at his disposal are the very thing he wants to change?  You could keep the same people, the same congregation, but you would have to tear the whole structure down and start over.  The issue isn’t problems in individual congregations or even necessarily those “tendencies” to which Institutional Church is prone; it is the description of the Church meetings given in the New Testament.  Where did the New Testament Church meet?  How did they facilitate the Church in Jerusalem at thousands of members if it met in houses?  They didn’t all have to meet at once in one place.  Is it wrong to meet in buildings?  Buildings cost money to maintain.  The Early Church and House Churches can use that money for other things, not needing to budget for light-bulbs and parking lots.  And the money was administered not by a church fund, but entrusted to the apostles.  Would it be best to return to an Apostolic Model, then, or even recognize Apostolic Succession as in the Catholic Church?

What Americans call consumerism isn’t consumerism; it’s collecting and hoarding, so we should stop maligning consumerism. Why do we think of consuming as bad?  Everyone consumes.  But isn’t that the threat behind “carbon footprints” of every organism?  Hoarding is entrapping; it’s worse than cigarettes.  We store all this stuff in our houses and then we lose it by the time we “need” it.  But people find security in having backups for things they use a lot.  And the reason we need a backup is because our society has manufactured (or demanded the manufacture of) consumable products, things that break or wear out.  When something breaks, we have easy access to stores, which store replacements for you.  We don’t just throw out broken things, though; we get rid of things to make way for the “new” thing, the upgrade.  What should you do with things you’re not using?  You shouldn’t keep it unless you are highly efficient at your storage and make your supplies work for you, your neighbors, and friends (hospitality: see Pigfest February 2010).  Isn’t this hoarding just the “building bigger barns” as in Jesus’ parable?  Then again, maybe it is the responsible thing to do, to work hard now and save up (not just money) for later, like the fabled ants in The Ant and the Grasshopper.  But is consuming really bad?  If you’re really using something up, and people are able to keep producing it, go ahead and consume.  Stores aren’t always as accessible as efficiency would require.  Consumption doesn’t just cost money; it costs lives and freedom.  There are some economies purposefully enslaved, where the people are kept dependent and forced to manufacture that which we consume.  Consumption is not acceptable, then, at every cost.  Isn’t the hoarding we’re talking about a sign of a lack of trust that God will take care of us in the future?

The End.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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