Sunday, September 30, 2007

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 7)

Read entire series here.

Continuing in my examination of Part 1 of Pulpit Magazine's article on church membership, I'll now look at the next statement in their definition of church membership.

To become a member of a church is to formally commit oneself to an identifiable, local body of believers who have joined together for specific, divinely ordained purposes.
This statement makes it very clear that the elders of Grace Church view membership as an act to be performed by each individual believer. Yet the very proof text that they use, 1 Cor. 12:13, states something quite contrary:

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Scripture makes it very clear that entering the body comes through baptism by the Holy Spirit. It does not say, "We all baptized ourselves into one body." Baptism happens to us. Entering the body of Christ is a passive event for the Christian, not an active one. As I will show in future posts, if one's definition of something is contrary to the proof text that supposedly proves it, all conclusions based on that definition are subject to being skewed. Because the Grace Church view is based on action of man rather than passive acting upon by the Spirit, I call their view a man-made formal membership.

Part 6 . . . . . . . . Part 8

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 6)

Read entire series here.

Now I'd like to examine some of the arguments put forth by Pulpit Magazine in their two part series on church membership. In my experience, their arguments are fairly representative of those who hold to a doctrine of man-made formal membership. In part 1, their definition of church membership (taken from the Grace Community Church Elders' Distinctives on Church Membership) is the following:

The Definition of Church Membership - When an individual is saved, he becomes a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). Because he is united to Christ and the other members of the body in this way, he is therefore qualified to become member of a local expression of that body.
What is immediately obvious about this statement is that there are two distinct levels of Christianity for the elders at Grace Church. The first level is salvation and membership in Christ's body, the second is qualification to become a member of Christ's local body based on the first. So not only are there two levels of Christianity, and two different memberships, but there are two distinct bodies of Christ. The body of Christ a person is saved into is different from the local body of Christ. It's truly amazing, but each time I've pointed this out in a discussion with a proponent of formal membership, they have denied that this idea creates two levels of Christianity! But it's right there in their definition!

What is more interesting is that the verse used, 1 Cor. 12:13, states that we have been baptized into one body, not two! Now for a question about their definition: where does the bible state that salvation qualifies a person to become a member of a local church? I'm not aware of any such passage.

Part 5 . . . . . . . . Part 7

Shirt-Sleeve Weather In San Francisco

Mark Twain is attributed with the quote, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." As a Giants baseball fan who lives about 30 miles inland on the east side of the Oakland Hills, I can agree. As summer winds down and temperatures drop in the rest of the country, San Francisco is getting its warmest weather of the year. As ocean currents in the northern hemisphere run clockwise, we on the west coast get our ocean water from Alaska. It's cold. This gives San Francisco its famous fog. But an autumn reversal of airflow brings hot air in from California's central valley.

The last several Giants night games were warm enough for people to wear shirtsleeves. I've been to nearly a thousand games in my life and I can count on my fingers the number of night games comfortable enough to wear shorts. The cold fog, high winds, coastal range, Oakland Hills, hot inland weather, and breaks in the hills make the Bay Area the toughest micro-climate area for meteorologists. It's not uncommon in the summer for temps to vary 35 degrees over a half mile in some areas. It might be 105 out here, then we go to a night game with layers of sweaters, jackets and blankets to freeze our fannies off with fog and wind in the low 50's, then return home only to go swimming. It really is true that the 49ers have better weather than the Giants.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The End of Time

The end of time came last night at midnight. No, this isn't about eschatology. Some of our clocks were getting fast or slow. So I called "time" (757-xxxx or pop-corn, etc.) and re-set all the clocks. Overnight, one clock's battery died, so Mrs. Scott called time to re-set it. She received the message that as of Sept. 19 (today) that time would no longer be available as a service to those with a phone. The end of time has come.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Back In The Kitchen

Life has put over a year delay in our kitchen remodel. The upper cabinets have been done (except for one shelf) for over a year. The lowers have been open for over that long, with the cabinet doors in the garage. The children have learned that the pots and pans aren't worth playing with any longer so they don't. But the last two weeks I've taken to painting the cabinet doors, and tonight I put a coat of primer on the cabinet face. I was able to install one of the doors this weekend. Once the lowers are painted and the doors installed, I still have to paint the scalloped crown molding and deal with the seams between the old and new cabinets (which are custom made by me and my dad). Then new counter top and tile on the wall.

We are keeping with the 40's style and all new stuff looks retro. I can't wait until I'm done. Then I can attack the rest of the 30 page list...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 5)

Read entire series here.

Society VS leaves a very good observation in the comment section of Part 4. To quote:

I like the route you are taking with this - and I agree in general with it - but at the core of the 'assembling' is an even deeper issue - usefulness of the church.

My brother told me something that opened my eyes 'churches are culture associations/clubs' more than they are churches/faith systems. I think I agree with what he said. Maybe the churches have lost their focus - and in the process - people have left church (seeing it's utter lack of use - or original intent). I think there is more to leaving church than we might think...I could be off - but it makes logical sense.

In both my personal experience and in talking with many other Christians, many people leave a church because of the formal memberships those churches have set up. (Several I've talked to have vowed to never become "formal" members of a church again.) People are welcome in many churches not because they merely confess Christ, but because they also believe not only in the essentials of Christianity, but the narrow sectarian beliefs of the leadership, and even the culture that church develops because of those narrow beliefs. Those who don't aren't welcome, and often are denied "formal" membership. Many others are turned off by the two tiered class system that "formal" membership necessarily, although not wittingly, sets up. (I will show this point in future posts.)

By requiring conformance to narrow sectarian beliefs and manufactured cultural "norms" as a part of membership, many churches are actually creating the drifting, non-participating "pew-sitters" that their "formal" memberships are designed to prevent.

Part 4 . . . . . . . . Part 6

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 4)

Read entire series here.

In Part 3 I left an open-ended question. If every Christian is already a member of the church, and if a Christian becoming a member of a church is foreign to the bible, how then is this membership a reality? The answer lies in the meaning of church itself. (See my What Is The Church? post). Unfortunately, in Western culture and the English speaking world, the word church is too often associated with a building, an institutional idea, a denomination made up of a collection of churches, or even Christianity itself.

Church, which is ekklesia in the Greek, means assembly. God's assembly. We as God's people assemble. We assemble together. When this view of church is seen, it is then easy to see how membership is a reality. We are members by assembling. There is no category in the bible of non-member, but there is one of non-assembler. We see this in Hebrews 10:24-25:

"...and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."

The one who is a non-member is the one who forsakes the assembling together. The member does what is by nature for a member of an assembly; he assembles. I still have much to write in the development of this concept, and might just post several dozen parts to this series.

Part 3 . . . . . . . . Part 5

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Fall Is In The Air

Today was the first day this year that I could feel autumn in the air. It's hard for me to explain the "feeling," but there are some distinct sensations that I can describe. The shadows are discernibly longer, since the sun is at a lower angle in the sky. This angle of the sun somehow changes the light somewhat. It appears to make things a slightly different color to me, maybe a bit more orange. It is a warm day today, in the low 80's, but there is some kind of feeling as to how temperature, humidity, wind (or lack of) and sunlight mix to form the feeling of fall.

Fall is my very favorite season of the year, with spring my least favorite. I love the color changes, and the gradual (at least here where I live in California) descent from hot to cool, day by day over several months. Cooler evenings and mornings turn to warm days. Then the leaves change color and start to fall. Then it's football-on-the-front-lawn weather. Pile up the leaves, play football in them, then pile them up again. And of course there's the Fall Classic - without the Giants.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

End Of The World Anniversary

Today, September 6, is the 13th anniversary of the world not ending. Harold Camping declared that September 6, 1994 would be the end of the final tribulation, and that on that date, the sun would become dark, the moon would turn to blood and the stars would fall from the sky. The universe would undergo undulation for a period of a few weeks until Christ returned to end the world and to throw a majority of people who had ever lived into hell.

As far as I know, it didn't happen. Maybe it did and I just missed the 10 o'clock news.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 3)

Read entire series here.

Proponents of a formal man-made church membership system often point out that the idea of a Christian not being a member of a church is foreign to the New Testament. They are correct. But where they err is when they then charge "non-members" with sin or failure to obey their pastors simply because they haven't become "formal" members (according to their church's understanding of membership) of their church. If the very idea of non-membership doesn't have biblical warrant, then why do these people invent the category of "non-member" and apply it to people that the bible doesn't even apply it to?

Now for something very important to my entire series on church membership. The reason that there is no biblical category for non-member? It's because every Christian is already a member of the church. A look at every passage in the New Testament dealing with the idea of members (see part 1) uses the word in a tense that shows that we are all already members. The idea of a Christian becoming a member of the church is just as foreign to the bible as being a non-member.

Part 2 . . . . . . . . Part 4

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Fence Is Done

Okay, the back fence is done. It is only sightly longer than 30 feet long. Our property is 50 feet wide, and somewhere a way back, property lines were adjusted so that there are three lots in a row that are made up of 30 feet of one lot and 20 feet of another. Since original property lines were recorded, the legal description is of the combination. Anyway, it was great fun in building. Without knowing it, I used Gene Redlin's main points in his The Cure For Boredom before he even posted it. (Thanks, Gene, not so much in explaining how it's done, but for the affirmation I received afterward!)

I left a few boards out so our 5 year old could play with their 6 year old until they moved out at the end of the month. I screwed the last boards in yesterday. Kinda sad in a way to see the old 4 foot fence gone, replaced by the 7 foot one (6 foot fence on top of a 1 foot retainer). But even though it reflects some sunlight and takes some of the breeze away, Mrs. Scott is very happy and I can move onto my next project.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Of Anglicans and Anarchists

For some reason, it seems, a higher percentage of the blogs that I either read, have read, have been influenced more heavily by, or are more interesting that all the rest have been blogs by Anglicans and anarchists. And there certainly isn't any main connection between these two groups. The Anglican church is headed up by the Queen of England, a monarch, and this is contrary to the ideas of the anarchists.

Anglicans seem to be better educated than the rest of Christianity, so maybe this appeals to me. They think out their beliefs a bit better. Not that I agree with them, but they seem to do so with richer language and better use of metaphor.

Anarchists, on the other hand, seem the same with respect to education. In order to be an anarchist (in the strict definition of the term, that is, having no ruler) one needs to have a good understanding of the political and religious ideology of the state. Anarchy gets a very bad rap in my book because people somehow have been taught to believe that with no civil ruler to govern the minute details of everybody's life, that complete chaos would result.

Thus anarchy is associated with chaos (even in the dictionary definition). This in not close to being necessarily the case. I believe in anarchy because I believe in biblical Christianity. Self government (i.e self-control) is the fruit of the Spirit, and when we govern ourselves according to the Word of God, we don't need (state) government because there are no lawbreakers. Our last church picnic was a good example of true anarchy.

Then there are many good Anglicans out there, but I'll never be one.

Welcome, Shelly

I wish to welcome new blogger, friend, friend of our family, fellow churchgoer and Giants fan to the blogoshpere. Welcome, Shelly, and your blog Shells on the Seashore. I've added her to my links.