Got a Secret?

There’s nothing esoteric about the Christian faith. There is no secret mystery into which you must become initiated in order to be admitted. It’s not like the Gnostic sects where one had to become an initiate for years before he became a full member. Jesus spoke to this issue plainly when He said,

I have spoken openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues, or in the temple court, where all the Jews assemble, and I didn’t teach anything secretly.
John 18:19

Christianity isn’t Masonry, or Mormonism, where you take vows “never to reveal and always to conceal” rituals that you are required to perform in a Lodge meeting or in a “temple” ceremony. It has always been completely aboveboard about its beliefs and practices.

Indeed, as Jesus said, He always spoke “openly.”

If an organization—or pseudo church—has anything worthwhile to offer, let it be open to examination. How can anyone vow to never reveal something before he knows what it is? That is one form of what the Bible calls a rash vow. It is sinful to rake a vow that one doesn’t know whether or not he ought to keep before he knows what it is he is vowing to keep secret. Suppose, after taking a vow, one were to realize that he must expose the error or sinfulness of what he learns—he’d then find himself in an intolerable position. On the one hand, he’d be obligated to expose it; on the other hand he would have vowed not to do so. That is an unacceptable dilemma, one into which one must never allow himself to be inveigled.

One more thought—if a group of any sort has something worthwhile becoming a part of, it has no right to conceal it from anyone; but like our Lord said, it is something that should be proclaimed “openly to the world.” If it’s worthwhile, spread it abroad; why would you selfishly cling to it as private truth? If it’s not something worthwhile, then don’t get into it in the first place.

On every score, then, no Christian should ever become involved in a secret society. A fundamental principle of our faith is to preach the message of salvation to all the world. We have nothing to hide.

There is a Reason Why

Everywhere there is a growing consensus that Christianity in America is on the wane. Is that a true picture of things?

The answer, of course, is that no one knows.

The reason I say this is because of how the data are gathered–and then reported. Increasingly, all who profess to be Christians, are lumped together. Even some cultists—let alone weird and liberal groups who pretend to be Christians—are labeled and then counted as such. If these are diminishing, then supposedly true Christianity is too. Even if it isn’t.

But if they are not—and there is little reason to believe that they are—then are true Christian churches on the way down.?

The fact is , although the groups counted as Christian, groups which are of all colors and stripes, that sort of grouping has been true to some extent for quite some time—at least for a century, so that faulty criteria for determining who is a believer can’t really be the reason for this seeming situation.

What is, then? Nothing. As I said, we have no idea how many genuine Christians there are in America. For that matter, you can’t even be sure about the Christianity of all of those in your solid, Bible-believing church! Only God really knows.

Then why even discuss the matter?

Good question. Because we ought not even be trying to count (how about it Barna!). There is no way you can get a DNA sample of a person, put it into a test tube together with the right substance, shake it four times. and have it turn out true BLUE (if the person being examined is genuine).

Besides, were we able to count, it wouldn’t really matter. Jesus Christ is conducting the course of His church throughout history, and we don’t know what He is planning for the future. There could be another dark age ahead. If so, Christians are the light of the world—i.e., people with lives designed to shine so as to lead the way. If it means He will bring about glorious revival, then we can all sing His praises with greater intensity since there will be more of us to do so!

So, there is a reason why it doesn’t really matter whether we can know if the church ls growing or not, even though it is our task to attempt by evangelization to help increase its numbers. That is what we should concentrate on.

 

Business

Cursed is the one who does the Lord’s business deceitfully.
Jeremiah 48:10 (HCSB)

That was true then; it is true now. The footnote in Holman for “deceitfully” is “negligently.” Whether the better rendering is the former or the latter is not significant. The point is that business done before the Lord (or in His Name) that is done wrongly is sin, and He will not put up with it.

How much business is done in God’s Name today! The church—and religious organizations in general—are deeply involved in money-making activities. But careless, sloppy or deceitful methods cannot withstand His perusal. How His people handle His money in transactions of various sorts is a matter of concern to God.

In III John, it is clear that missionaries “took nothing of the Gentiles [the unsaved to whom they preached] for the sake of the Name.” How Christians deal with funds is of importance to the spread of the truth. Here were men who went out to offer the Gospel feely to the lost. They, therefore, rightly refused to raise their support among the unsaved to whom they preached. That decision was highly commended in the book.

Continue reading

Denominations

“Now there’s another one.”

What are you talking about?

“Denominations.”

Denominations?

“Yep. Every time I turn around there seems to be a new one I never heard about before. Since the Anglicans split, we now have two Episcopal churches in the USA.”

Wrong. Back in 1873 the first split took place, and the Reformed Episcopal Church was begun. They have a seminary in Philadelphia and one in South Carolina. They divided over sacerdotalism. But, apart from that, what bothers you about denominations?

Continue reading

Church Planting

I’ve been asked to discuss the subject in a blog. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing so. There is so much to talk about that I have decided only to give a few suggestions instead.

First, you need some converted people—some of whom you will lead to the Lord, and others that are already Christians and express a wish to become part of a new congregation in the target area. Perhaps you could ask the pastor of a nearby church of your denomination to allow a couple of his families to become temporary workers and (when organized, members) of your congregation. They ought to promise to help for two to three years.

Ringing doorbells will still get you a couple of members, but 1) people aren’t at home anymore—both he and she work; 2) people are afraid to open the door to a stranger (it might help to take your wife along). 3) Tell them right off that you are not a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon, or you might not get a hearing at all. 4) try not only to get some interest, but see if you can find someone who will let you begin a Sunday night (Wed night) Bible study in his/her home. In one way or another, you want to start that study a soon as possible, then get their friends to attend as well.

Oh there’s so much to say about being careful about ordaining the right people as elders, etc., etc.

One last bit of advice (seriously, this is important): read the book of Titus and follow the directions. It was written to Titus to tell him how to organize little knots of converts that Paul had to leave behind unorganized. When you are large enough to think about becoming a particular church, then preach a series through Titus, for the people’s sake.

As I said—just a suggestion or two. Have fun doing it too!

feedback@nouthetic.org

The World and the Church

If I were going to characterize our era—which may be foolish to do since my nose is up so close against it—I’d say that it is the Age of Uncertainty.

Every age is uncertain in many respects, but there have been times when things were nailed down much more tightly. The financial situation is precarious. The political area is quite iffy. And, what seems to be true of the church is that everything is up for grabs.

The political and economic arenas are important, but nowhere near as important as the religious.

Now, many Christians would say that what happens in the world out there (notice my wording) is of vital importance to the church. Of course, it is important, but I am sure in God’s eyes what happens in and to His people is far more so. And, indeed, what occurs within the church has far more impact on the culture than anyone realizes.

Continue reading

Coffee

Coffee used to be a communal thing.

By that, I mean, you brewed a pot, and then everyone sat around and drank it, usually chatting together. But now, there are machines that allow you to make one cup in your home without reference to anyone else. Of course, it has advantages for those who live alone, etc. But, apart from that, isn’t it mainly one more way to break up the society that we used to know in our homes and neighborhoods—and churches?

So far as churches go, the same thing is happening in other ways. We all live at distances, rarely see each other during the week, drive to church, look at the back of people’s ears sitting in pews before us, exchange a few words, and drive home. Since this is true, and since we need the fellowship of one another—stimulating each other to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)—then, we are going to have to do more to create (artificially) what used to be automatic. Without giving it thought, planning and providing opportunities, it isn’t going to happen. The fellowship of the saints, already dwindling, will finally disappear in those places where nothing is done to reverse the trend.

The passage in Hebrews calls for thought—consideration of ways to simulate one another. God knew fruitful fellowship would occur only if we used our heads to come up with ways to see to it that it does. Soooo . . .what are you personally going to do about it? This isn’t something to be done by the leadership alone; you too can thinks of ways you can reestablish communal activity—even without a pot of coffee!

feedback@nouthetic.org

BARP

I have a confession to make. After growing up in a Baptist Church, graduating from a Baptist Bible College and a Baptist Theological Seminary, pastoring a Baptist church in Florida and Iowa, I am now a member of a Presbyterian church. How did it happen? How do I assuage the anguish of soul my mother experiences? What do I tell my Baptist friends who are burdened for me?

Let me explain how I became a Presbyterian and then allow me to draw some lessons from my life as a BARP (which I only recently learned is my official designation as a Baptist in an Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church). When we moved to Greenville we were surprised to find that while there is a Baptist Church on every corner they fell into several distinct categories—Southern Baptist, Pro-Bob Jones University Fundamentalist, and anti-Bob Jones University Fundamentalist. Without getting into an explanation of the nuances of each, all three categories had the following in common—they were Arminian in theology, mystical, and refused to do church discipline, all of which vexed my righteous soul.

Continue reading

What Is The Church?

What is the Church?

We are always hearing of all sorts of organizations beginning that hope to carry on the work of Christ—some may be legitimate; others surely are not. It is the church that Jesus Christ built to carry out His will and do His work; of that we can be certain.

But what is the church?

The Greek, New Testament word translated , “church” is ekklesia (from which English words such as “ecclesiastical” come). It is a compound term composed of ek = “out of” and “kaleo” = “to call.” That means the church is a body of “called out persons.”

But what does that mean?

Continue reading

When, Then?

When was the church officially organized? In Matthew 16, Jesus promised that He would someday bring it into existence by giving it the authority of the keys. But that was not its day of organization. Many people say Pentecost is the day it officially began. But that was not the purpose of Pentecost. That event was the coming of the Spirit to empower an already organized church for its missionary activity.

Well, then when did it begin? That the church, as an official organized body was in existence prior to Pentecost is evident from the fact that, as a body, it officially took action to elect an apostle to take Judas’ place (Acts 1:14-26). Obviously, those, so acting, considered themselves the church. Twice on the day of Pentecost, we are told that converts were “added.” To what? To an existing body of people that already could speak of having a definite number (Acts 2:41, 47).

Continue reading