Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 30) - An Analogy

Throughout this series I have dealt with the idea that Christians who assemble with a body of believers, who worship God, who serve others, who love others, who attend all church meetings and pray, give, encourage, exhort, admonish, help, and all the other commands of the bible, still must formally join a church through their formal membership system to be obedient. I have thought of an analogy that puts this idea in perspective.

"You know, Steve, you were born in America to parents who were born in America. They were also born to parents who were born in America. You were raised by your parents in America. You attended American schools, worked in American jobs, and pay taxes to the US government. You watch fireworks on the Fourth of July and remove your cap during the national anthem at a ballgame. Don't you think it's time you become an American citizen?"

Wow. I guess so.

Read the entire series here.

Part 29 . . . . . . . . Part 31

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 29) - Coming Soon: Review of Donald Whitney

Although I had previously been exposed to a formal church membership doctrine, the first time I read a popular evangelical author on the subject was through a chapter in Donald Whitney's book, "Spiritual Disciplines Within The Church," in about 1997. At a newly formed church we were reviewing his book during a bible study just after a church merge.

My previous experience with a legalistic church's membership ideas - and the practical problems they caused - prompted me to be extra careful with Whitney's book. I'm glad I was, as I recently reviewed my own margin notes in the copy I had in my bookshelf for years. I caught a number of errors in Whitney's reasoning back then, but over these years I came to the place of being able to spot more. As my bible study reviewed his book, we as a group found some problems, too, with this chapter on church membership.

Whitney's original printing (I'm guessing my 1996 copy our bible study bought in '97 was the first printing) has been revised since then. The chapter in question can be read here at his "The Center For Biblical Spirituality" website. Whitney's material, in this book and others, has been widely influential in the Reformed world over the last fifteen years. This particular chapter has been referenced by others with whom I have taken issue in previous parts of this series.

My aim is to review his writing on church membership, most specifically from this chapter. I expect to do this over another dozen or two parts in this series [Update: I will likely alter the amount I write about Whitney's view, probably in the downward direction]. I will also include references from the original printing, as some of the author's points are re-worded or re-emphasized in the version on his website.

Get a head start on my series by reading his chapter here.

Read the entire series here.

Part 28 . . . . . . . . Part 30

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Friday Night Potpourri on Saturday

Last night I started writing this post, and I crashed before I could get very far. So, here goes, a day late.

  • As much as Tapatio hot sauce is my very favorite (I keep the 32 oz bottle in the fridge), I must say that El Yucateco red habanero hot sauce (hecho en Mexico!) really flames the soul. The habanero pepper (world's hottest) is soooo tasty.
  • Stood in the hot sun in 105 degree heat today to ref a soccer game. Polyester uniforms. Don't feel too sorry for me, my kid had to play in it.
  • Your child accidentally spill a soda on a bleacher bench at a pee-wee ballgame? Tip: a size 7 Pampers diaper will absorb the whole spill.
  • Went to the Giants/Cubs game last night and ran into some friends on the train home who go to a church on my search list. Maybe this is a hint?
  • Another hyper-Calvinist bumper sticker idea - this time retro 70's: "Go Jump In A Lake Of Fire"
  • Another fourth grade phonograph song. We all loved it, and it's the very first song every guitar player ever learns.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Building Trust By Trusting

John Armstrong posts at his blog about a business strategy based on trust, as written about by CEO Dov Seidman. Simply put, you build trust by extending it to others. Several examples from the business world are given, and Armstrong concludes that Christians should be doing the same thing in the church.

I've been involved in numerous jobs and church ministries where things were run in a top-down fashion by a micro manager of affairs. Trust in such a situation is the hardest thing to gain, and even doing the right thing can be an item of rebuke if it lands outside the leader's guidelines. Allowing people to make something better by using their own gifts and talents (these don't need to be known by us initially) can be the most rewarding thing for all parties involved. Jesus sent his disciples out on their own and the results were astonishing. He even left us here to accomplish his will. Shouldn't we at least trust each other the way he trusts us?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Night Potpourri

End of the week thoughts:

  • The Giants beat the Dodgers tonight in Los Angeles. I'd love to be there.
  • Just found out yesterday we have to move within 20 days. Should be really fun. I don't know how this will affect blogging.
  • A large branch from the neighbor's olive tree broke off over the fence and landed in our yard. This year, this tree has been terribly messy with its leaves and fruit. Are olive trees always messy?
  • This fascinating snip from Jason at Pilgrim's Pub: "Aocedrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at rghit pelae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wihtout a porbelm. This is beuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe."
  • Another song played on the phonograph in the fourth grade. The all time number one June hit. Every kid's favorite.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 28) - A Real Life Example

Bob Spencer at Wilderness Fandango, a reader and occasional commenter on this blog, posts about his church's recent adoption of a "formal membership" system. Bob admits that he doesn't "get it" about the church membership requirements. "Commitment" as it is defined by the church leaders seems to be the point. Quoting:

...Are you tithing? Are you taking part in a church-based ministry? Are you attending regularly (according to to definition of the church leadership)? In the case of the church I was attending, if you make a solemn commitment to these things and five others, you're in. If not, you're out.

Does anyone else think it odd that I can say of myself, I am a child of God, a member of his family by adoption through Christ, but I am not a member of the local church, because by their standards I haven't measured up? You see, they've raised the bar a good deal higher than Jesus did.

Another thing: I've heard it said that for a Christ-ian all life should be ministry. But the local church likes to privilege its own organized and established ministries above all else. You have to be committed to participation in one of our church-based ministries. It simply doesn't count that you're pouring yourself out, day by day, to your children. Sorry, that just doesn't register on our membership scale. You need to come to church and fold bulletins, or pass plates, or work in the bookstore, or pull weeds in the garden, in addition to that other stuff. That way we know, we can measure it, and then we can confirm your status of membership.
Read Bob's post. The membership system he describes seems typical of the mentality I have written about in previous parts of this series.

Read the entire series here.

Part 27 . . . . . . . . Part 29

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Night Potpourri

Random, er I mean, secret numerological coded thoughts on Friday:

  • Gilligan knows economics. James Leroy Wilson posts a YouTube clip of musician Dan Litwin singing a song about the fraudulent money system of the Federal Reserve. In the middle of the short song, a clip from a Gilligan's Island TV show has Mr. Howell talking economics with a small potatoes dictator. Mr. Howell states the need for precious metal backing of money for a strong economy, while the dictator interrupts, "In my country, all we need is a printing press and paper!" Gilligan looks on. How times have changed.
  • Last weekend in San Diego I jogged on the beach barefoot each day. I went a whole trip without wearing either socks or shoes.
  • Most places: No shirt, no shoes, no service. In San Diego at the beach: No shirt, no shoes, no problem!
  • Still reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I'm a slow book reader. Waiting to break into Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism and the Sacred by Philip Bess.
  • When did the word "loose" become a substitute for the word "lose?" I have seen this frequently in the last few years. "If you don't do it, you will loose out" or "If you gamble with that, you'll loose your shirt." I see this from people who otherwise know how to spell. Is this a fad?
  • Here's a purely upbeat song that I've always loved. Mid 80's at its pop music finest. Dig the clothes, makeup and hair!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another View Of Divorce And Remarriage (1)

Perhaps no other topic, or very few anyway, garner as much heated debate, flamethrowing, false accusation and overall mistreatment of fellow believers (if they are even viewed as such) as the topic of what the bible says about divorce and remarriage. I've written on this before, here and here.

Thanks to my friend Peter, who supplied me a link to something a bit different, I read a site by Dr. David Instone-Brewer on this topic. Dr. Instone-Brewer has written two books and a number of articles on this issue. How it differs from other views I've heard is that there is an allowance under God's law for divorce in cases of adultery, abuse or abandonment, stemming from Exodus 21:10-11 and from extra biblical accounts of what the "any cause" statement really meant in Matthew 19 when the Pharisees confronted Jesus.

Quoting from his Christianity Today article:

Putting all this together gives us a clear and consistent set of rules for divorce and remarriage. Divorce is only allowed for a limited number of grounds that are found in the Old Testament and affirmed in the New Testament:

  • Adultery (in Deuteronomy 24:1, affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19)
  • Emotional and physical neglect (in Exodus 21:10-11, affirmed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7)
  • Abandonment and abuse (included in neglect, as affirmed in 1 Corinthians 7)
Lots of interesting stuff on this site and plenty more in the links to his articles. There's apparently a critique from John Piper out there that I'll have to read, too. I'll be writing more about this soon.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Survey: Which Bible Translation(s) Do You Use?

Here's a From the Pew survey of my readers:

Which bible translation(s) do you currently use? Which was your first translation? Please answer in the comments section.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Happy 15th Anniversary End Of The World

Today, September 6, is the 15th 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.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Friday Night Potpourri

It's been a slow blogging week. So here are some scattered thoughts for a Friday night:

  • It's been a slow blogging week because something's up, and I'm not telling until later.
  • Some good things have happened recently, so I'm happy about that.
  • The sunset tonight was gorgeous. Pink to purple.
  • Here's a question: should a church excommunicate over personal belief on the proper mode and subject of baptism? (i.e. not agree with the pastor?)
  • In the fourth grade our class had a phonograph record player. There were some 45's the kids played often, and we thought those songs were really cool. Here's one of them from the previous decade. Awesome!