This video is from Rev DeCrastos. For his blog, go to: http://other-words.net
Christian subcultures are an entertaining phenomenon. Multiple brands of Christianity claim the same Lord and read the same Bible, and yet they promote a set of values sometimes as different as apples and orangutans.
I once heard a story about a Christian woman from the East Coast who confronted a West Coast youth-pastor, who allowed “mixed bathing” at youth events. “I can’t believe any so-called Christian leader would allow boys and girls to swim together!” She expressed her concern, all the while puffing on a cigarette. The youth pastor couldn’t help but smile, speechless at the irony.
I attended a conservative Brethren church when I lived in Scotland. Some of the women wore head coverings and none of them spoke in church. When I had our Irish pastor and his wife over for dinner, I asked them what he would like to drink. “Beer please,” the preacher said. “And for you, madam?” “I’ll take a glass of Chardonnay, thank you.” Were they liberal or conservative? I guess it depends on which subculture you come from.
When you try to cut out Christians with a religious cookie cutter, you not only tarnish diversity, but you trample on grace. It’s one thing for Christian subcultures to cultivate unique values. But it becomes destructive when those values are chiseled on Sinaitic tablets for all to obey.
It’s even worse when Christians expect instant holiness from recent converts—holiness, that is, in areas where we think we’ve nailed it.
It’s a shame that some believers have scoffed at some of Shia Labeouf's recent comments about converting to Christianity, pointing fingers at the fact that he still uses bad language weeks after becoming a Christian. It's worth noting that some are speculating that Labeouf's conversion may have actually been more of a rather dramatic example of method acting than a true conversion but, regardless, many Christians chose to focus on his language instead of his heart. God only knows the true believers from the false. But to judge a man’s faith because there’s a residue of potty mouth?
Bad language may take years to weed out. Even more difficult to extract is the pride that drives judgmental Christians to mock the Spirit’s work in a man seeking his Creator. That sin could take decades to discover. Grace means that we are all works in progress, and God shaves off our rough edges in His timing. Just look at the thugs God works with in the Bible.
I know we’re programmed to see the 12 apostles as saints with halos and contemplative faces. But actually, they were criminals. These guys were more like prisoners than pastors, and few of them would have been let inside our churches today.
Take Peter, for instance. Peter walked with Jesus for three years, witnessing miracle after miracle, sermon after sermon. Still, on the night before Jesus’s death, a servant girl asked Peter if he knew Jesus. “I do not know the man!” Peter responded. And he even evoked a curse on himself to prove he wasn’t lying (Matthew 26:74).
Can you imagine if your pastor did that? “Good morning, church. I just want to say that I don’t even know who Jesus is!” We have a hard time forgiving pastors who commit adultery. I don’t think we’d know how to handle a pastor who had a public bout with doubt.
Then there’s James and John, whom Jesus nicknames “sons of thunder.” Apparently, they never made it through an anger management seminar. On one occasion, these two hotheads wanted to nuke an entire village because they wouldn’t let them spend the night (Luke 9:51-56). The whole village—women and children. Luckily, Jesus stepped in to prevent the destruction. These two holy apostles would have been better fit as bouncers outside an expensive casino in Vegas owned by a mobster, than preachers of the gospel of love.
My favorite pair is Simon the “Zealot” and Matthew the tax-collector. How did those two thugs get along?
Matthew’s vocation was nothing less than political and religious treason. Tax-collector’s were Jewish agents of Rome, who mediated pagan oppression through taking money from innocent people. Imagine if you found out that your childhood friend was making a living off funneling money to ISIS. Would you use him to plant a church? Apparently, Jesus did.
Tax-collectors were more than extortionists. They were known for living excessively immoral lives and hanging out with all the wrong people. Religious Jews, in fact, believed that tax-collectors were passed the point repentance. Matthew didn’t have a moral bone in his body. But of course, after becoming a Christian, he immediately stopped sinning and never used bad language ever again.
Simon, as a “Zealot,” probably grew up on the other side of the tracks. The “Zealots” were named such not because they were prayer warriors. They were just warriors—Jewish jihadists. The “Zealots” were known for killing their Roman oppressors or other Jews who were sell-outs. They were aggressive, violent, and they did anything but love their enemies. Had Simon met Matthew on the streets, there’s a good chance one of them would have been found lying in chalk.
To build His Kingdom, Jesus handpicks what could be compared to the leader of the Black Panther party and the grand wizard of the KKK. I doubt anyone closed their eyes at that first prayer meeting.
You cannot sanitize grace. You can’t stuff it into a blue blazer and make it wear khakis. Grace is messy, offensive, and it sometimes misses church. To expect God to pump prefabricated plastic moral people out of a religious factory is to neuter grace and chain it inside a gated community. If God’s scandalous relationship with the 12 thugs means anything, then we should expect a variegated spectrum of righteousness and be patient—or repentant—when such sanctification doesn’t meet out expectations. God meets us in our mess and pushes holiness out the other side.
Not anti-mixed-bathing holiness. But the real stuff. The holiness that serves the poor, prays without ceasing, redeems the arts, loves enemies, elevates community above corporate success, and preaches the life-giving Gospel of a crucified and risen Lamb in season and out.
This post is taken from Relevant Magazine. For the original post with comments, go to: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/being-christian-doesnt-always-look-you-think-it-should#ZWjRGEm91I08kKTX.99
Ten Reasons Men Should Not be Ordained Pastors
10. A man’s place is in the army.
9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.
8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work.
7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.
6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.
5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.
4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.
3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.
2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, change the oil in the church vans, and maybe even lead the singing on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.
1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.
Note - this post is humorous. However, don't get lost on the humor at the expense of what is being intended.
I don't know the original author for this post. If you can find the author, please let me know.
“Church” is simply the word that refers to all of the Jesus followers in the world– people who sometimes get it right, and often get it wrong. And, from that perspective, I won’t give up on “The Church”– and here are 5 reasons why:
5. “The Church” is a term that refers to people, and I won’t give up on people.
It’s easy to let go of church when one thinks about church as institution, church as power, or church as oppression, but true Church is just… people. People who, while broken and screw things up, bear the divine image of God and have infinite worth and value to God. Since God himself will never give up on people, and scripture calls us to be imitators of God, I can’t and won’t give up on people either.
4. I am part of “The Church”, and part of why it is often broken, and I don’t want people giving up on me.
Like it or not, if you’ve accepted the invitation to follow Jesus, you are part of his “Church”… the Church. It’s part of the deal. For me, this causes me to realize that I have also been complicit and contributed to many of the Church’s problems, because I’m as screwed up as everyone else in the club. And you know what? I really don’t want anyone to give up on me. I think, by God’s grace, I might have some potential. It would be hypocritical to give up on them when I secretly hope they won’t give up on me.
3. I am unwilling to give up on “The Church’s” mission of spreading the Good News.
The mission of Jesus’ Church is beautiful: spread his Good News that the curse (death) has been overturned, that you and I can be reconciled to God, and that he’s returning to make all things new. As we spread that Good News, we’re invited to be agents of reconciliation– reconciling people to God, reconciling people to each other, and reconciling the earth (environment) to God. That’s the mission– and I still believe in it. It’s beautiful, and I’m not giving up on it– or “The Church” tasked with carrying it out.
2. Jesus promised that even the gates of hell would not defeat “The Church”, and I’m not willing to give up on Jesus.
When Jesus recommissioned Peter, Jesus promised that he was going to build “The Church,” and that it would be on a rock so sturdy that nothing would ever be able to stand in the way of “The Church” ultimately accomplishing the mission. To give up on “The Church” as if it is broken beyond repair or a failure, would be to completely discount the promise Jesus made. Instead, I’ll walk forward having faith that Jesus will help to reform his people into an image that looks more like himself– and that there’s still hope for all of us.
1. Giving up on “The Church” presents an alternative reality that I don’t like: a church of one.
My friend Frank Schaeffer once told me that “there’s only one alternative to being part of a church where you have profound disagreements: join a church of one.” And, Frank was right– to give up on the global Church, to even give up on the local church, is to embrace life as a church of one person– and that’s not a comforting reality in my book. In fact, my hunch is that I’d really have some issues with the one member in that “church” too. Instead, we’re called to be participants in a diverse body… one that includes both tender grandmothers and crazy uncles, but has room for us at the grownup’s table. I’d rather be a part of that family, quirks and all, than to be a family of just me.
This is a portion of a post written by Benjamin L. Corey. To read more go to: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/5-reasons-why-i-wont-give-up-on-the-church/#ixzz3HpDz9OZz
If you attend a church regularly, you’ve probably noticed the phenomenon. A guest shows up for a worship service, but he or she never returns. It is, unfortunately, a common issue in many churches.
I did a Twitter poll to ask these first-time guests why they chose not to return to a particular church. While some of the responses were anticipated, I admit being a bit surprised with some of them.
Though my poll is not scientific, it is nevertheless fascinating. Here are the top ten responses in order of frequency.
This post is written by Thom S Rainer. You can find his original post replete with comments here: http://thomrainer.com/2014/11/01/top-ten-ways-churches-drive-away-first-time-guests/
Consider these facts:
Last week, I had the awesome privilege of working, for 5 days, for a ministry called “Silent Blessings Deaf Ministries“. The purpose of my time there was to help the organization develop a fundraising strategy for a campaign they have coming up in the near future. So, my time that week largely consisted of getting to know the ins and outs of the mission, vision, and values of this ministry. Silent Blessings is an organization that desires to bring people, both deaf and hearing, into a profound encounter with the reconciling love of God through Jesus Christ. I would say that is a worthy goal. They also produce a TV show for deaf (and hearing) children that is broadcasted all over the world. It is called Dr. Wonder’s Workshop. All of the actors are deaf and the voice-overs cater to the hearing population.
I know very little sign language and I only personally know a couple deaf people. For a while, for some reason, I have felt like our church has had some sort of call by God to reach out specifically to this people group. I am still not sure how that is going to look structurally, but we have already started dabbling in sign language as a church to prepare for what God has for us.
My week there was exciting, and I felt like I was at home with my temporary co-workers. I felt like we had the same mission in ministry even though I did not have much connection with the deaf commnunity I know God was nudging me. God broke my heart that week, more deeply, for the deaf community. In many surveys, this people group is called the largest unreached people group in America. To hear stories of how the deaf are marginalized, abused, and ignored entirely made me leave my temporary office shaking my head and desiring more of a connection. One stat that really shook me to the core involved the fathers of deaf children. Less than one percent of fathers who have deaf children are engaged with their child to help them grow spiritually, emotionally, or mentally. Not good.
So, as I reflect on last week, I have fond memories, and I look forward to my continued connection with this organization. My heart is filled…but it is also broken. Jesus loves everyone…even those who can’t hear.
Take a look at the video on my page and catch the passion for why this ministry began. Go to their website and donate!
This post was written by Rev DeCrastos. You can his post here: http://other-words.net/2014/10/27/the-week-that-broke-my-heart/
I am a Nazarene because of what the church teaches. It teaches a doctrine of compassion, love, and kindness.
In October 1895, Phineas F. Bresee and Joseph Widney organized a Church of the Nazarene in Los Angeles. The church was formed around the doctrine of entire sanctification and the belief that sanctified Christians should follow Christ’s example and preach the gospel to the poor.
Bresee took issue with the church placing missions in poor areas, but not giving the poor their own church. He formed the church with the goal of ministering to the poor. It was said of him that he often took money with him when he went out on his pastoral rounds, but that he never returned with any, having given it away to anyone he met who was in need.
On Sundays (and the members would come to the church for the entire day, having services in the morning, eating dinner together, fellowshipping in the afternoon and then having an evening service), he would stand in the foyer greeting people before the service. If he saw people arrive who looked embarrassed about the way they were dressed, he would rush to greet them enthusiastically, put his arm around them, and escort them to the best seat in the sanctuary.
Even in 1895, the church allowed for the consecration of women and ordained both women and men as ministers. Before the Holiness Church of Christ in Tennessee merged with the Nazarene Church in 1908, they had ordained three women as ministers. Our founder was fond of saying, “Some of our best men are women.” Women played major roles in the holiness movement and when we start naming the names of our church parents, the lists are filled with women who were ministers, deaconesses, evangelists, and missionaries.
The founding members of our church strongly believed that you shouldn’t adorn either churches or your body—not because it was sinful, but because it was a poor use of resources. That money, they felt, should be going into ministries for the poor.
That church later merged with two other regional denominations, each having a Wesleyan context. The Association of Pentecostal Churches of America, the Church of the Nazarene, and the Holiness Church of Christ were brought together and merged officially on October 8, 1908 in Pilot Point, Texas. The merged organization was called The Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene. In 1919, we changed our name to drop the “Pentecostal” because of the new associations that had become attached to the word Pentecostal.
We trace our roots through various movements which we recognize as paving the way for our existence. Our antecedents include the Holiness Church of Christ of 1894, the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America (1887), the holiness movement of the 19th Century, and the Wesleyan movement of the 18th Century, including the Anglican Church.
We claim heritage from the other Christian churches (including the Catholic Church) throughout the ages. The Church of the Nazarene calls itself a branch of the “one, holy, universal, and apostolic” church. We seek to be faithful to that universal history and—like nearly every other Christian religion—claim the history of the people of God as presented in the Old and New Testament as our history and heritage.
We believe that all people of God through the ages who have been redeemed through Jesus Christ are our brothers and sisters—no matter what church they do or do not attend. We acknowledge and accept as expressions of our faith the ecumenical creeds of the first five Christian centuries.
We believe that our branch of the church has a special calling and that is why we exist separately. Our calling is to proclaim the doctrine of sanctification and to live a Christ-like life of service to others. We have 16 Biblical Articles of Faith.
As Nazarenes, we believe that God calls Christians to a life of holiness. God cleanses our heart from original sin (the act of justification, achieved only through God’s grace and accepted by us only through faith) and fills us with love for God and others. When we have been filled with the Holy Spirit, we then devote our lives to serving God by serving others.
Compassionate ministries are extremely important to Nazarenes. It is commanded that we love others and we display that love through service. In that love and service, we believe, all else is fulfilled. Our concept of service and God is based on the belief that we are to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
This post was adapted from an epinions website entry. For the original post, go to: http://www.epinions.com/content_2721620100?sb=1
BE A MAN.
One of the sea changes taking place in American religious life is a popular turn away from denominations. Some say we are entering, if not already in, a “post-denominational” era. Nearly all traditional denominations are struggling with membership declines and revenue shortfalls. As I put my ear to the ground of popular opinion about religion, I hear rumblings of discontent about denominational labels and behaviors and a preference for what I call “plain label” Christianity.
I, for one, still value denominations.
Before explaining, I need to define “denomination.” Some sociologists of religion use the term for broad religious traditions. For example, in that usage, “Baptist” is a denomination. That’s not how I use the word. For me, “Baptist” is a tradition, a heritage, and a religious type. I think “denomination” should be reserved for religious organizations and networks of churches. (I could add synagogues, but here, for purposes of this post, I’m talking only about Christians.) By my usage “Baptist” could not be a denomination. As the old saying goes “I don’t belong to any organized religion; I’m a Baptist.”
So, for me “denomination” refers to an organization of churches with something like a headquarters or at least some unifying structure, however informal and inchoate it may be. (For example, the Churches of Christ count as a denomination even though they have no headquarters as such. They do have a relatively cohesive structure of mutual recognition.)
By my definition, the Abingdon Handbook of Denominations lists and describes about 300 distinct denominations in the United States. There are more, of course, because the Handbook excludes the smallest ones and many that are restricted to a small region. Some scholars have guessed there are about 1,200 denominations in the U.S. (I suspect they are including groups of two or more churches.)
I know this will shock many people, but my attitude toward denominations is “the more the better.” Let me explain.
It seems to me one of the strengths of American Christianity has been its multiplicity and even diversity of denominations. That blooming, buzzing profusion (to paraphrase William James) has produced both good and bad results, but overall and in general, I judge, it has benefited American Christianity and American society as a whole.
For example, most colleges and universities in the U.S. were founded by denominations. So were most hospitals. Most denominations have charitable agencies that are involved in feeding the hungry, training people for jobs, community development, etc. And, of course, most have mission-sending agencies. Small churches that cannot afford to do these things (e.g., found a college or hospital or even support a missionary family) pool their resources better to do them.
Denominations also provide accountability for pastors and other “church professionals.” And I think that accountability works best when the authority is closer to the churches and their leaders.
Denominations also keep each other sharp. A certain amount of competition serves to raise the bar, so to speak, so that there is motivation constantly to update, refurbish, stay sharp (e.g., with regard to technology, training for ministry, etc.).
I recently interacted with a well-known ecumenical theologian who has been intimately involved with the World Council of Churches for many years. He expressed the hope of someday seeing one worldwide Christian denomination. I don’t share his hope. He portrayed the existence of multiple denominations as evidence of “brokenness” in the body of Christ. I don’t see them that way. At least the plurality of denominations does not have to evidence brokenness in the body of Christ.
As I have stated and explained here recently, my vision is of an ecumenism of the Spirit, not of institutions. I’m not opposed to denominations merging, unless that means the sacrifice of important particularities and a lowering of standards of belief and practice to a “least common denominator” in which robust belief and practice get lost (e.g., “generic Christianity”).
Some people assume (and I think this was the case with the ecumenical theologian) that the very existence of separate denominations equates with hostility and exclusion. I don’t see those as necessary at all. Where they exist, yes, they are to be overcome. Dialogue is the path, not throwing off particularities and distinctives in favor of a bland, generic spirituality and/or social ministry.
There is no reason why denominations cannot worship and work together while maintaining their institutional lives. There is no reason why separate denominations must harbor or express hostility toward each other. They don’t even have to be exclusive. In my opinion, “ecumenism” should aim at mutual understanding and cooperation. Beyond that, I hope, through ecumenical work, that all Christians might someday enjoy intercommunion. But “visible and institutional unity” is not necessary for that. Nor, in my opinion, is it even a good goal.
Imagine a worldwide Christian church (denomination). It would have to have a hierarchical structure of some kind. It would have to somehow blend Christians together in a way that would require the muting of distinctive voices. Inevitably, also, it would leave out some Christians because they don’t fit the worldwide church’s standards for unity.
Here’s an example of that. The ecumenical theologian argued that Baptists, for example, ought to recognize the infant baptisms of other denominations as legitimate Christian baptisms. Okay, that’s not likely to happen, but I understand where he’s coming from. Or I thought I understood. I don’t mind hearing a challenge like that. But, then, he held up for me (and others listening) a model of ecumenicity in which a church body decided to open the Lord’s Supper to all Christians except unbaptized children. Note—for him, baptized children could partake of the Lord’s Supper but not not-yet baptized children. In effect, he was suggesting that Baptists give up their distinctive insofar as it excludes other Christians but other denominations should not accommodate to Baptists’ beliefs! Imagine two families considering joining the church he described. One family has baptized children, but the other family comes from a baptist-like background in which the children have not yet been baptized. The first family’s children can partake of the Lord’s Supper, but the second family’s children cannot. How is that a triumph for ecumenicity?
My point is that, even this great ecumenical theologian seems blind to what would have to happen in order to achieve a world church. Some traditions’ distinctive would have to be slighted. Some tradition’s distinctive would have to “win,” so to speak. In my experience, nearly all these “world church” ecumenical thinkers envision a reformed papacy and magisterium. As one of them once said to me (he was a Lutheran ecumenist) “If the pope would just admit he’s not infallible we could join the Catholic Church.” Fine. Maybe he, as an ELCA minister and theologian, could. But how could Free Church Christians? How could baptists (of all kinds)? How could Pentecostals? In my opinion, this one world church ideal is not ideal at all—except for Catholics and closet Catholics.
My vision of ecumenism is all Christian denominations agreeing to worship together (on occasion), cooperate together (e.g., in charitable endeavors), and even admit one another to the Lord’s Table.
Now, there’s another reason for disdaining denominations that’s popular among younger Christians. It’s what’s generally meant by “post-denominationalism.” Many young Christians consider denominations old fashioned, divisive, top heavy, always embroiled in controversies, etc. They prefer what I call “plain label” churches, often newly founded, meeting in rented spaces, grassroots-oriented, etc. My observation, though, is that these churches tend to be too inclusive and lack proper emphasis on Christianity’s experiential and cognitive aspects. They tend to emphasize community. The motto is sometimes “Belong, believe, behave” or “Belong, behave, believe.” But moving from “belong” to the other “b’s” doesn’t always happen. Many such churches stress community to the exclusion of strong beliefs and moral expectations (out of fear of dogmatism and legalism).
I sympathize with this youth-oriented movement, but I fear their Christianity may, like that of the “big ‘E’ ecumenists,” be bland, with no cutting edge to it. Sometimes, it seems, they are reinventing Christianity which means they are likely to make the same mistakes older Christian churches have made (and perhaps some newer ones).
For years, whenever I traveled (and I still do it), I got out the phone book in the hotel room and looked at the headings under “Churches” in the Yellow Pages. All across the country the list of churches under “Non-denominational” has grown. Now that is one of the longest lists in most places. What’s ironic, however, is that, as an aficionado of denominational histories and identities, I recognize many denominational churches under that heading! How honest is that? To be “non-denominational” or even “post-denominational” and belong to a denomination? To promote your church as non-denominational or to tout post-denominationalism and be denominational? And yet it happens all the time.
Personally, I struggle with “plain label” churches. When I see a church sign or ad that contains no hint of the church’s denominational affiliation or identity I assume one of two things. Either it is genuinely independent, non-denominational, or it is hiding its denominational affiliation to appeal to post-denominational people. Often it’s the latter. (I know because I often look them up on the web and find their denominational affiliation.)
A good example (but only one of too many to name or describe) is a large church in a city to which I travel often. I pass it several times a year. It’s a large, beautiful church in a suburban neighborhood. Its sign says simply “Calvary Church.” I finally remembered to look it up using a search engine. It’s a member church of the Christian Reformed Church of America. Nothing I could see on the building or grounds indicated that. (Many have “CRC” or something on their signs.)
So, what’s wrong with that? Only that the CRC is a truly confessional denomination with distinctive beliefs and practices. One of its doctrinal standards is the Canons of Dort—the anti-Arminian statement of faith. Suppose a Wesleyan family (I mean doctrinally, not denominationally) moved to that suburb, liked the looks of the church, heard it is a good church (family-oriented, many programs for kids, whatever) and decided to visit with an eye toward joining the church. How long would it be before they realized they were visiting and considering joining a Calvinist church? I personally know of such situations and, in some cases, people have attended a long time before realizing the church they want to join holds beliefs contrary to their own. In the end, they have to leave, having wasted a lot of time and emotional investment.
I think every church that belongs to any denomination should say so “up front.” Failing to do so seems somewhat dishonest to me. And truly non-denominational churches should make their beliefs and distinctive practices known to visitors with a brochure in every pew.
I once saw a church that advertised itself as “The Undenominational Church.” (This was back when 7-UP was advertising itself as the “UNCOLA.” I found out the “undenominational” church was really a Church of Christ.
Every church has boundaries; every church should let visitors and their communities know what they are by making them readily available.
What is happening (that I’ve been talking about in the previous few paragraphs) is simply cultural accommodation in a bad way. Church growth experts are telling churches that most American’s don’t like denominations and encouraging them to re-name their churches with generic names (e.g., Faith Family Fellowship) and omit any reference to any denominational affiliation or distinctive beliefs and practices. In most cases, the churches that do it keep their denominational affiliations and/or distinctive practices but hide them. In my opinion that is nothing other than cultural accommodation involving an element of dishonesty. As we have all heard, “lying” is not just telling an untruth; it can also be neglecting to tell the truth.
So, I titled this post “Why I like denominations.” I’ve wandered away from that somewhat, but I’ll conclude by returning to it. Christian churches do have distinctives; there is no such thing as (organized) generic Christianity. They ought to be honest about them. If they’re not proud of them, drop them. But better, be proud of the ones you keep! Distinctives do not have to be divisive. In fact, I like the fact that there are: Wesleyans, Calvinists, Pentecostals, Baptists, Anabaptists, Lutherans, Catholics, etc. I often wish some of them would soften their rough edges, but, for the most part, they are already doing that and sometimes going so far that they are losing all shape. When I see a church that is proud of its denominational affiliation I suspect it is giving money to help found institutions of higher education, mission-sending agencies, charitable organizations, etc. And I know what it is; I’m not left in the dark about it. May their tribe increase.
This post was written by Roger Olson, you can read more here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/10/why-i-like-denominations/#ixzz3GtONeRBM
We in the West are nowhere near the persecution level of those living in Muslim nations or communist nations such as China or Vietnam. We know little to no physical attacks here for the gospel. While I know a few open air preachers who have been arrested for preaching and have been physically attacked by people, most people just go through their day-to-day lives without fear of attack for their Christian faith. That may change in the future but for now, we enjoy only verbal persecution from the secular media and from the liberals on college campuses.
I do believe, however, that the house church movement will become a dominant force in the Christian culture in the coming years. It is the house church movement that has sustained (by the grace of God) the disciples in China. It is the house church movement that sustained the saints of God in the former communist Soviet Union. It is the house church movement that is growing in Europe as people grow tired of the institutional church and are looking elsewhere for true faith. It will be the house churches in the United States that will see growth and souls saved as they remain steadfast in the Word of God.
Why will this be? For several reasons but let me just name a few.
1. Authentic Faith.
House churches offer a place for people to live out their faith with others. There is no hiding here. You can just show up at a traditional church and no one may even know you are there or even care in some cases. Not so with house churches. A "large" house church would be over 10 people so you can't hide. We will know your name. We know your life. We will both disciple and challenge you in your faith. This, I believe, was the model of Jesus and should be ours as well. True discipleship is not learning from a book or sitting in a class. True discipleship is taking the "one another" texts of the New Testament and seeking to obey them (there are 52 in the NT). This leads to authentic faith and not merely a show on the stage of many traditional churches.
2. No Money.
House churches need no money. There are no salaried pastors. No land to buy. No buildings to pay for. While house churches do sometimes take up money for missions or for hurting Christians, house churches have no budgets to meet, no bills to pay. I once read that 75% of money in the traditional churches goes toward salaries and buildings. None of that is found in house churches. If a disciple wants to give money to their church then so be it. The house church would then take the money and give it to help church planters (missionaries) or hurting disciples. This is the NT pattern.
Many people reject going to church because of the emphasis they perceive on money. With the false "health and wealth" churches and the so-called "prosperity" gospel, many are turned off to Christianity because of their false teachers. The house church movement doesn't want your money.
3. Can Move Around Quickly.
The house churches in China are said to move around quickly. They do this to avoid arrest. I have heard the same of the few house churches in North Korea. Because house churches are not locked down to a building, they don't need government approval to meet nor do they have to meet all the time in one place. House churches in China often will meet several times a week at different locations to accommodate the needs of the saints. They don't just meet on the Lord's Day.
Here in the United States, traditional churches are locked down in their buildings. They need people to generate money for their buildings to pay the bills. At times, the gospel can be watered down and pragmatism reigns as traditional pastors need people to keep coming to pay the bills. Further, traditional churches fall under the watchful eye of the government. As freedom falls in the West, traditional churches will suffer the most as people flee them.
The house church movement will thrive at this point with no buildings, no bills, no salaries, no paper trails, no 501C3.
4. Can Preach What They Want To.
Traditional churches will no doubt face sensor from the government. There may come a time where it is illegal to preach against popular sins (being viewed as discrimination). The government will monitor the traditional church (as they do in China). Traditional churches will have to comply or be gone.
House churches will continue to preach the gospel without hinderance. Why? Because what can they take from us but our lives (Philippians 1:21)? Jesus promised us persecution as His followers (Matthew 5:10-12). Jesus said that if we are His disciples, we will face persecution and hatred (John 15:18-20). But He told us to be encouraged for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). In the house churches, we will preach the gospel. We have no 501c3 you can take. We have no buildings you can cast us out of. We have no salaries that require that we go soft on the gospel for the sake of money. We have no need of this world to survive. We have the Word of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit so we will be fine.
For more information on the house church movement, please see:
House Church Central
New Testament Reformation Fellowship
Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity
This post was written by the Seeking Disciple. For his original post, go to: http://arminiantoday.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/the-house-church-movement-and-the-future-of-the-usa/
I have learned that maintaining my relationship with God takes a lot of work -- as does any relationship -- work that at times I do not have the motivation for chasing after God and the things of God. While I know full well that God is at work within me, enabling me "both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13), I also remember that He has commanded me to work out my salvation "with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). But I recently noticed a statement of Paul's that I overlooked for so many years.
Prior to commanding the believers in Philippi to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, noting that God Himself is granting them the ability to do so, the apostle writes: "just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence" (Phil. 2:12, emphasis added). I wondered if the believers found exercising spiritual disciplines easier when Paul was with them, but, perhaps, a bit more difficult apart from him, or, more to the point, when he was away.
I know from my own experience that when I am spending a lot of time with a spiritual leader, like a pastor or a visiting evangelist, I am much more inclined toward spiritual truths than when I am on my own. Perhaps many of us experience the same. Could this be a primary reason we are encouraged and commanded: "But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' so that none of you [believers] may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:13); "And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb. 10:24)?
Though I have been writing this truth for quite some time now, I think that I am just now beginning to feel the weight of it: brothers and sisters in Christ need each other for their spiritual well-being. Not one among us can say, "I have no need of you" (1 Cor. 12:21, 22, 23, 24); but, rather, God has "so arranged the body . . . that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another" (1 Cor. 12:25). We suffer together and we rejoice together (1 Cor. 12:26). We also pursue God together, as a unit, intent on one purpose and one goal.
I think that God has so arranged our unity in the Body in an effort at encouraging each of us to the chasing of Himself -- seeking not merely for what He can do for us, or give us, but just to live our lives in His presence and enjoy His love and grace. Sadly, I think many today have forgotten what the church is for, and what it means to be the church. While some people in our culture are frustrated with "church-as-they've-come-to-know-it," thereby forsaking the assembling of themselves together with other believers, they are unknowingly robbing themselves of not only developing rich relationships with others but also experiencing the one, true and living God. Robert E. Webber writes:
"The church, like a tribe, is a cultural community defined by the story of God. This story and shared vision is taught and communicated primarily as a lived experience. When a convert enters into the Christian community and becomes a disciple of Jesus, the person confesses that life is defined by the story of Israel and Jesus. Therefore it is important during the disciple stage to experience the biblical nature of the church. The church is not a mere voluntary society of like-minded believers, but a continuation of the presence of Jesus in and to the world."
Many in the early Church believed, with Cyprian (d. 258), that a person "cannot have God as his Father who does not have the church for his Mother." This does not mean that one must attend church in order to "be saved" -- as though salvation can be earned by church attendance -- as though all God requires of someone in order to experience His salvation is to belong to a local church -- but that anyone who claims God as Father would also, very naturally, mind you, desire the Church for one's Mother. The Church is, after all, the Body of Christ Jesus, God's Son. If someone wants to claim union with the Father, he or she needs to go through the Son, and through the Son enters the Body, which is the Church universal.
The Church as the on-going and tangible presence of Jesus often appears a foreign concept in our post-postmodern age where selfishness, individualism, and narcissism is commonplace. Being Jesus to and for others takes a great bit of intentional work; it does not happen by accident. Yet, in and through the Church, we often experience the manifest presence of our faithful God. Charles Ringma underscores the fact that our appreciation of God "seldom comes by way of doctrinal formulation." We do not experience God's grace, mercy, love and faithfulness merely by reading words on the pages of a book. We read about His ways; we understand and glean from them; but we experience Him in real-time -- in real-to-life relationships with other brothers and sisters.
Can each one of us experience God's presence and goodness while being alone? Yes, we certainly can, while in prayer and praise and study of His word. We are called to quiet solitude at times. But Anglican John Donne (1572-1631) was also right when he noted, "No man is an island entire of itself." Remember how the early believers conducted their lives at the birth of the Church: "Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people." (Acts 3:46, 47, emphasis added)
 Robert E. Webber, Journey to Jesus: The Worship, Evangelism, and Nurture Mission of the Church (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), 106.
 Charles Ringma, Dare to Journey with Henri Nouwen (Colorado Springs: Piñon Press, 2000), 159.
This post was written by Credendum. For the original post, go to: http://www.credendum.net/home/chasing-him-together