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Posts Tagged ‘orphans’

I’m in between churches right now – between congregations. All summer and fall I’ve been casually attending the meetings of various friends. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to not be obligated to make an appearance at any one building on a Sunday morning. I might tell a friend I’m coming, or I might decide Saturday night. Some Sundays I sleep in. Sunday morning heathenism is rather refreshing.

Except it isn’t heathenism. A lot of what happens in those buildings on Sunday mornings is of heathen origin. But heathenism is a lot more than skipping a sermon and praise concert. It is a lifestyle of rejecting God, and that I certainly have not done.

I believe the Bible teaches Christians to gather regularly with each other. That isn’t something I have abandoned either. My recent experience is filled with times of fellowship and encouragement with other believers. We do ministry together, hold each other accountable for our walks with God, philosophically tackle the dilemmas we’re facing, study the Bible, and pray. During these times we also tend to eat, to play games, to laugh and tease, sometimes to work. Kids running around get swept up by disciples of Jesus, who – like Him – love children.

About a month ago some friends invited me to their church. I went that weekend. This week they asked me what I thought, and didn’t I like it (since I hadn’t been back). And I froze, because, well, I did like it. The people were friendly and the teachings were biblical and stimulating. But I don’t think I’ll join. This Sunday I did go back there, though. And my friends’ thirteen-year-old son confronted me, “I thought you said our church was just ‘ok’.”

Hard to explain. This particular church is on the good end of mainstream churches. They have good doctrine. A lot of their money goes to missions. Kids are with parents in church for most of the time, and youth aren’t separated from their families. The music isn’t too loud or too self-centered. With a congregation of about 50, the pastor and teachers can know everyone.

After pondering for a day or so, here is my answer to the thirteen-year-old friend: (it’s alliterative so I can remember!)
1) Plurality. There is only one pastor at the church. He’s the head man. I believe Jesus is the head of the Church, and that leadership beneath Him must be shared among more than one equal. Whenever real life cases are discussed in the New Testament, the word is used in the plural. (Elders) In this way they can model cooperation and problem solving. Congregations and pastors are kept mindful that Christ is the true head, and that the Church is His project. Also, when one is weak, there is another to be strong, the proverbial man to pick you up when you fall. Two are better than one and a cord of three strands is not easily broken. Pastoring is a lonely job, being at the top instead of a part of your congregation as friends and brothers. My Bible describes a different sort of dynamic, where pastors are respected for being respectable and where everyone is exercising his gifts for the good of all: pastors, prophets, discerners, helpers, administrators, on and on.
2) Property. This was quite confusing to my friend, who expects people to scorn his church for meeting in the club house of a condominium complex. Whether you own a building, rent it, or have borrowed money from a bank to claim that you own it, all represent instances where the Church of God has used resources God entrusted to them not to do what He has instructed: caring for the poor, widows, orphans, and missionaries – but to have a separate place to meet. I believe churches are meant to be gathered in homes. Limited in size, surrounded by hospitality and everyday life, the atmosphere of house church encourages the participation of everyone, the familial fellowship of believers, and the synthesis of sacred and secular.
3) Preaching. The New Testament describes and even commends preaching. Except almost always the lecture style sermon was delivered to an unsaved audience. It is a tool of evangelism. And evangelism is not the purpose of the regular gathering of believers. In fact, the church meetings described in 1 Corinthians are much more open and unstructured than what we usually think of as church. No one was scheduled to speak. Anyone (any man?) was allowed to bring a word, be it a prophecy, a teaching, a tongue – as long as he spoke it for the edification of the group. He may share a testimony of God’s work or an instruction or challenge the Spirit laid on his heart to give to his friends. A teaching might be towards an identified deficiency of understanding or may flow out of the studies individuals are making during the week on their own. Prophecy may correct the direction the congregation is going, may identify weaknesses and strengths among them, may warn them, or may give them hope and vision for the future. Some verses indicate that individuals may also bring songs of their choosing to the meetings of believers, with which to encourage each other.

Now that I’ve said those things, I do believe that there is a place for the lecture-style teaching we call sermons. I really enjoy Bible conferences, and am not opposed to worship concerts where the band has practiced and is intending to honor God. When I visit my friends’ churches, I usually view those services as conferences, and I look for the Spirit-driven gatherings elsewhere. At this stage of my life I’m not content with the small groups and Bible studies that have been getting me by. So I’m still looking, reading books and searching websites from people who are practicing what the Bible teaches about Church. I’m excited to see where that leads.

Some questions remain, stronger tensions between the familiar and the ideal: how is authority supposed to work in the church? Is it important? Is it a matter of exercising authority or of submitting to authority? How much should we submit? What shall Christians do for evangelism? Wouldn’t it be better to team up? But is it wrong to invite people in to hear the gospel, or should we go out to them? Are women to speak in the church meetings? If not, why on earth did Paul say so? – Just to prove I don’t think I know everything!

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Autumn’s Eve Pigfest

 

Sunday night, the day before Autumn, I hosted my second ever pigfest.  We held a potluck autumnal feast that looked fantastic laid out on the table.  And by the end of the night we had discovered that it tasted fantastic as well. 

 

Our discussion went like this (remember devil’s advocacy may be adopted at any time): 

 

Proposition 1: Slavery is biblically acceptable. 

What is slavery?  What is the slavery in the Bible?  Does the Bible accept slavery, or merely regulate it; is there a difference?  Is there slavery today?  How does debt come in?  Are there advantages to slavery (especially indentured servitude) to an economy, a society, or an individual slave?  What makes slavery unacceptable?  What role should the church play in a society that utilizes slavery?  In history, has the church been successful in enforcing the Bible’s limits to slavery? 

 

Proposition 2: Unmarried adults should be allowed to adopt children. 

How is this worse than unmarried people working in orphanages?  Isn’t it better for a child to have one loving parent than none at all?  What are the legal implications when this is allowed?  Is this a selfish decision?  Does a one-parent household enable the parent to spend time with children, or are they raised essentially in an orphanage anyway, by being left to daycare?  If true religion is caring for widows and orphans, should single people be excluded?  How does having children as a single person affect other responsibilities or callings?  Is an unmarried woman less likely to get married if she has a child through adoption?  What about an unmarried father? 

 

Proposition 3: Cohabitation before marriage is the prudent thing to do. 

If everybody does it, how can it be bad?  Shouldn’t you test out a marriage before you make a lifetime commitment?  Are those advocating cohabitation in successful relationships or marriages?  Are they good people?  What is a Christian’s witness if he/she lives with their partner before marriage?  Many people applaud those who wait until engagement for cohabitation; is there any validity to that?  How long a cohabitation is advocated?  Does cohabitation actually sabotage the relationship, whereas starting with commitment (marriage) would enable the relationship to thrive and function?  Is marriage too big a hassle to interrupt a romance?  How should a pastor react to a couple who has been cohabiting?  Should he marry them ASAP or encourage them to repent?  Ought he to refuse to marry a couple living in sin?  Are they still living in sin after a wedding if they have not repented?  What role does a pastor have in a marriage?  Is it endorsement, witness, mere formality?  What about the law?  What makes a marriage? 

 

Proposition 4: We (the US government) should kick out illegal immigrants. 

Where would we kick them?  What would prevent them from coming right back?  Who will pay for deportation?  (It was suggested that the immigrants themselves should be forced to pay, if they can.)  Would this be good for the US economy?  Would it be tolerable for the US economy?  Has the population of illegal immigrants already hurt our economy (for example in the housing crisis)?  How does the lack of border enforcement reflect on our laws?  Are illegal immigrants typically otherwise law-abiding citizens?  What about language issues?  Isn’t America a melting pot?  Shouldn’t new immigrants be expected to assimilate just like immigrants from decades and centuries past?  Could we allow illegal immigrants to remain in the US if they followed a procedure for attaining legal status and citizenship?  Is there a risk to national security?  Since the waiting list for legally entering the US is so long, couldn’t we change that to make it easier to legally immigrate?  Why do we have limits on immigration?  Do other countries limit immigration?  Do they deport illegals?  Is it illegal to be in our country or illegal to get into our country?  Wouldn’t annexing Mexico solve our problem?  Would Mexico welcome that? 

 

Proposition 5: There are some situations in which extreme violence is justified. 

Who decides?  Is self defense the only situation?  What about defending others?  Defending innocents?  What about violent interference with the murder of unborn children?  Does defense only cover defense from murder, or can it be defense from torture or rape?  What about capital punishment?  Is it ever right to take a life?  Is it right to do nothing when lives are at risk – do I have the right to refuse to take a life or use violence if myself or other “innocent” bystanders are at risk of death?  Can I take an innocent life in order to save other lives?  Suppose a two year old is intentionally aiming a gun and pulling a trigger; should extreme violence be used against him?  Why is the Mosaic law so confusing: day or night, inside the threshold or outside, defending life, defending property…?  Does extreme violence refer only to violence leading to death, or to torture, etc.? 

 

Proposition 6: Reading books written in other languages and other eras should be done to encourage independent thought. 

Is independent thought desired?  Can translated works count?  How is that different from traveling to other parts of the world?  Does reading sufficiently immerse you in the culture to widen your perspective?  (It was pointed out that language is often imbedded in culture.  Language is formed to express a certain way of looking at the world, like the difference in description when emphasis is on texture rather than color.)  In what ways does your thought become independent?  Is this practicable?  What about those who don’t read?  Do movies count?  Foreign films with English subtitles? 

 

Proposition 7 (which was interrupted before actually beginning by the coming of 9 PM and the need to go home): Idealism ought to be valued over pragmatism. 

What on earth is idealism and pragmatism?  Do they always contradict?  Is it ultimately possible for them to contradict?  Which ideal? 

 

Some of my favorite things:  People were willing to play devil’s advocate.  The time before the debate enabled a lot of people to meet each other (and one family’s tire to be changed).  There was a lot of participation.  Pigfest format keeps a debate from wearing out the disinterested.  Everyone fit in my house.  One of my friends brought her two infant daughters.  It rained just as the party started, with the sun still shining.  Cleaning up wasn’t too hard.  People had a good time.  I’m able to remember the discussion half a week later. 

 

Things I’ll do differently next time (Nov. 1):  Have more chairs.  Don’t aim for a main meal, but do lots of snacks instead.  Pray by myself ahead of time about my attitude and perspective.  Think more about proposition ideas I might offer and how to present them in the most discuss-able way possible.  Review the rules before we start. 

 

Considerations:  Maybe prescreen propositions.  Increase time from 15 to 20 minutes.  Enlist a new (louder, more aggressive) moderator. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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