August 27, 2017

Church Growth

 

Church leaders seem to think that ingenuity and creative management efforts are the key to church growth. Nonsense, it's God's church and when it comes to growth, he holds the controlling factors. I don't argue that our efforts may fill pews, but increased membership of the church, that's another story. Not that I doubt the great plus of programs and folk working hard to filling our fine buildings. This life is so much easier with a full house when it comes to paying for the house. What's tuff for me is how willing we are to assess blame upon ourselves and others for depressed, lagging numbers.

 

Satan has had a field day in our country! Why do we have trouble seeing this and understanding what it means to church growth. Consider the historical record; the church in Judea came under intense persecution around the time of Stephen. Acts 8:3 says; "But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison." While Saul's actions caused dispersion and those scattered preached the word wherever they went, it left empty spots in the worship sites in Jerusalem. After the conversion of Saul, who became known as Paul, here is what it said; "Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers." Acts 9:31.

 

Was it the effort of Christians that reached Saul bringing him to Christ? No, it was the action of God and the further effect of his action was an increase in numbers in his church. "Dear wife," said to me recently; "so and so is going to that big church in Bako because it has programs that meet the needs of the family." Actually, I hope that works out well for them, I really do. But it is a fair observation that much of the growth of the mega church is due to people leaving the little ones.  The problem reminds me of the guy who lives in a small town and buys a Lamborghini. It's pretty exciting - till it breaks down, then you have to take it to where they can fix it. Small town folk who are relatively close to the big towns like Costco, (and yes, I do too) but there was a time when the local Western Auto would sell us what we needed and then fixed it when it broke down. Even if you allow me to put doctrine to the side for a moment, the question; "Are mega-churches in our own interest?" is very troublesome. 

 

Recently I attended service in a small congregation, where the bigger church in the adjoining town was supplying teachers to help the small church grow. The irony was that the teacher who came to the smaller church from the big church lived in the neighborhood of the small one. But they loved the excitement, the singing, and the programs of the large church. To cap it off the visiting teacher told me that if the small church had better leadership, it would grow. "How long oh Lord?"

Steve

 

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March 26, 2017

What Does It Mean to be “Autonomous?”

No, it not the same as being without a car, or having a robotic moose. It is having self-government, at least to a significant degree, acting independently or having the freedom to do so. In one sense we Christians of the Church of Christ in Shafter are “autonomous,” however in another way we are not. Being made free from the creeds and associations established to control the beliefs, teaching and even properties of a churches, we are free to bind ourselves to the teaching of the scripture unfettered by human based organizational desires and demands. What a freedom, at the same time, what a responsibility. Of course if scriptures are the standard, the cannon and constitution of God, it does not matter what men (or women) set up, God will judge by His word, so it is just as well.

National or international “church” organizations often sustain a greater role of control than people realize. For example, we have recently witnessed a judgment awarding 28 properties worth an estimated $50 million dollars in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. They are forcing the Anglican Church to temporality meet at the Ford Theater across the street from our facility. A further look at the Diocese of the San Joaquin Episcopal website reveals that they are governed by the “Canons and Constitutions of the Episcopal Church and the Canons and Constitutions of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.” Please understand, I have people I love who found themselves involved in this thing. They are friends who do not necessarily see eye to eye with me, but I don’t think they ever realized the downside of being in a “yoke” relationship with a religious headquarters.

Religious people worldwide have forgotten the power of by various church counsels; Another example, consider the oath taken by the Queen of England in 1953.

The Archbishop asked the Queen to be; “Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England?” and the Queen replied; “All this I promise to do.” The word “inviolably” caught my attention as it means; “incapable of being violated; incorruptible; unassailable.” Scary, we take a lot for granted; this makes me so appreciate the freedom we have in our country.

One last thing, in this day of internet, people go to the web to find out what “Churches of Christ” believe, guess what assumptions arise? That we have a central association (assumed) and that we all believe the same. If you have ever looked at the web and you see what people say churches of Christ believe, well it too is just scary. A friend used to say that the brotherhood of churches of Christ is some brothers and some hoods. Here’s the point, it really is necessary for all of us to be His ambassadors and talk to our neighbors and friends about our precious freedom in Christ.

Steve

 

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March 12, 2017

Isn’t All Sin the Same, “Just Sin?”

In the Bible, there is only in one subject or context where all sin is viewed on an equal plane. Paul, in Romans chapters one through three, teaches that all sin, any sin, condemns. The Bible teaches that a relationship between the holy God and humanity on an individual basis only exists when the human is in a holy state of being. Paul teaches that all sin, any sin make a person “un-right,” “unholy.” So, after going through a long list of human sins, Paul concludes; “As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one…” and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The solution to this scenario is Jesus Christ publicly displayed in history as the sacrifice to take away the sins of the world. Humans can be “holy” in Christ.

There are a minimum of three categories of sin the scripture displayed as “worse,” or “more serious sin.” (1.) Sin of a leader in the public trust. 1 Kings 11:9-10 or 2 Samuel 12:7-10. (2.) Sins with forethought committed against another person (s). Hebrews 10:28-29, Matthew 18:6, 1 Corinthians 8:9-11. (3.) Flagrant, malicious, obstinate sin. Romans 1:32, or 2 Peter 2:20-22. To this I would add that in any secular view it should be obvious that not all wrong doing or criminal activity is the same. History teaches us that some things, if approved and permitted in a society will bring about its downfall.

In recent times, three Christian defenders of the pro-homosexual and pro-abortion party platform have offered this defense to me, “isn’t all sin the same?” It’s easy to overlook this, but the first question should be, “Then are you admitting that this platform is promoting sin?” However, from this; the next point is usually “who do I think I am condemning one sin over another?” Who am I? Just a person who very concerned about what is officially approved by a national party.

Steve