Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: discipline

Four kinds of Christians?

In musing over the many directions taken by Christians I have encountered over my lifetime, it seems that they fall into four basic categories: ritualists; activists; survivalists and disciples. I don’t pretend that this is the nec plus ultra of analyses, but it is something that has helped me sort things out in my own mind.

Hmm, nec plus ultra, that says exactly what I am trying to say, but I wonder now if it helps anyone else understand what I am trying to say. It is Latin and means “nothing more beyond.” I think it would be understood if I were writing in French, which I’m not. What I wanted to say back there is that this explanation works for me but somebody else might be able to do a better job.

I’m not sure that I’ve found the best word to typify each category either, but here is what they mean to me;

  1. Ritualist. I would include here all those who feel the need to regularly sit in on a worship service at a certain day and time. This includes those who are strongly attached to a liturgical form of worship, but I would include all those who feel the important thing is to be there. They are not specifically drawn by the preaching or the fellowship, they just want to be part of what’s happening. Perhaps the best way to describe them is as consumers of spiritual food, rather than contributors.
  2. Activist. This includes all who feel they are called to change the world. this might include the Christian ecologist, the one who feels a burning call to enlighten the world about him about the need to prepare for the sounding of the sixth trumpet of the Apocalypse, or one who feels he has to share the message of salvation with every person he encounters, on the street, in stores, at football games.
  3. Survivalist. The opposite of category two. They have given up on the world and all their efforts are focused on just hanging on. They see danger everywhere, are suspicious of everyone. Sometimes they gather in  communities and protect themselves from outside influence by restricting social contact, sometimes even speaking a different language.
  4.  Disciples. To disciple means to teach. To be a disciple means to be a learner. This is a life-long process where one never gets to the point where he has nothing left to learn and no need of others. One cannot really be a disciple in isolation from others, or according to one’s own plan or schedule. Discipleship includes the idea of being part of a disciplined and orderly group where learning is possible.

Lest I be misunderstood, I want to emphasize that I have encountered true Christian believers in all four groups and I can recognize all of those tendencies within myself. Left to our own devices we all tend to go off on some tangent. As an elderly neighbour was wont to say “There is no moderation in the human race.”

The Great Commission is a call to make disciples of all peoples, including those next door if they are willing to listen. It is not enough to lead someone to salvation and then leave them to carry on as best they can by their own devices. The Great Commission is not fulfilled until there is a disciplined body able to function as a body, not merely a collection of disconnected body parts.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to paint a picture of a group of mindless zombies led by a dominating leader. Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Shepherd of the church. Yet He has called for the establishment of a servant leadership to watch over the spiritual health and growth of each assembly.

I mentioned moderation. It is listed as part of the fruit of the Spirit and is not something that can be taught. Yet it seems that we need to be taught the need for moderation. Part of the whole life of discipleship is learning how to relate to one another in a way that is supportive and encouraging for all and will maintain a purity of faith and life. This is what our Lord and Shepherd expects of us and the better we come to know Him, the better we will be able to relate to one another.

Mission statement for writers

I confess that I am quite cynical about the term “mission statement.” In my experience in the business world, a mission statement is an exercise in public relations where management attempts to come down on the right side of every hot button issue of the day. Creating a mission statement has generally been an exercise in creative writing, not a serious attempt to redefine the values that will guide corporate decisions in the future.

Neverthtypewriter-584696_1280eless, when I attended the recent Christian writers workshop and listened to Janice Dick advocate that writers create a mission statement for their work something clicked in my mind. Jan has published four books of historical fiction and I think she might just know something that hadn’t occurred to me before.

Creating a mission statement will help a writer clarify his thinking, decide just what his goal is, and direct his activities towards that goal. If a writer works in different formats and genres the mission statement will probably need to be tweaked and fine-tuned for each project. Here are the five questions that Jan suggested to help us create our mission statement (with my additions in brackets).

1. What do I do? (Am I a historian? a business writer? a story teller? an apologist? a fiction writer? a devotional writer? a doctrinal writer? etc., etc.)

2. How do I do it? (How much research is needed? Where do I get my inspiration?)

3. What is the value of what I do?

4. Who am I doing it for? (Is my target audience children? teens? young adults? seniors? believers? seekers? skeptics? mothers? teachers? etc. etc.)

5. What do I believe and why? (My faith does not need to be on display in every word that I write, but a lack of integrity will make my writing weak and ineffective.)

A tale of two nations

How Children Have Taken Power is the title of a book recently published by Swedish psychiatrist David Eberhard. I am going by a story in a French language newspaper so the title is my English translation of the French translation of the Swedish title of the book.  An English edition will be out later this year.

Sweden is the supposed earthly paradise for families: parents get lengthy maternity & paternity leaves, day care is available for all children, social benefits are such that Sweden has one of the highest bithrates in Europe. But they have extended their social democratic principles to the point of thinking of the family as a democracy, with children having equal rights with the parents. In effect, this gives them greater rights than the parents. Punishment is unheard of. One father sent his son to his room for twenty minutes – he was taken to court.

The result is a nation of rude, demanding and insolent children. The children decide what the family will eat for supper, where they will go on vacation, when they will go to bed, what they will wear.

Meanwhile, Pamela Druckerman reports that in France the children are respectful, well-behaved and eat whatever is set before them. Pamela Druckerman is an American, living in Paris with her English husband and their three children. Her latest book, Bébé Day by Day*, summarizes in 100 short notes the basic rules of the French parenting method. The French believe the best way to give children the resilience to cope with life is to teach them from the very first to acknowledge the existence of others and the needs of others.

French parents talk to their babies right from the first and explain things to them. When guests come into the home, they will greet the children, even the very young, and those who are old enough to talk are expected to say “bonjour” to the guests. When the guests leave, the children say “au revoir.” While the parents are visiting the children are expected to play by themselves and not interrupt, but both guests and children need to acknowledge each others existence whaen arriving and when leaving.

French mothers have complete control of the menu, the children are exposed to a wide variety of foods and are expected to taste everything on their plates. There is no pressure to clean off their plates. French mothers know a cild may need to try a new food a dozen or more times until they learn to enjoy it. So this new food will turn up on their plates every so often and they will eventually eat it all. Snack time is in mid-afternoon. No sweets are eaten at any other time. This is the French way and children do not beg and whine, because they know it will do no good.

French parents have no intention of raising an “enfant roi,” a child king. Children are cherished and respected, and they are taught to respect others. French parents say emphatically “c’est moi qui décide,” I am the one who decides. It is expected in France that parents will often have to say no to their children. Life is like that.

In Sweden, 54.9% of marriages end in divorce, the highest rate in the world. In France 38.3% of marriges end in divorce. Do you suppose it is easier for parents to live in harmony when theyare living in harmony with their children? Pamela Druckerman notes that French presidents have developed a reputation for cheating on their wives, but there is not much of this among ordinary french people.

Pamela Druckerman’s book is a book for adults, there is no off-colour langage or graphic details but she does speak frankly about the relationship between husband and wife. It is a small book; good parenting is not complicated. I think North American parents knew a lot more about parenting a few generations back, but we have lost it in all the conflicting psychological advice. This book might help some parents find their way out of the fog.

*Bébé Day by Day, © Pamela Druckerman, 2013. Published by The Penguin Press.

Who is the victim here?

A young mother comes into the coffee shop with her three-year-old daughter.

– Do you want a doughnut?

– No.  I want to go home.

– Mommy can buy you a chocolate milk.

– No.  I want to go home.

Mommy sees some friends at one of the tables and goes to talk to them.  Then she returns to the counter to order a coffee for herself.

– Can Mommy sit down and have a coffee with her friends?

– No.  I want to go home.

Mommy gives up and leaves the coffee shop.

Who was the victim in this episode?  Did you say it was the mother?  I think the child is every bit as much a victim as the mother.  Authority in North American homes has shifted from the parents to the children and the results have not been pretty.

Years ago, North American parents were told that babies needed to learn to sleep and eat on a fixed schedule.  They were told that showing much affection to their babies would leave them ill-prepared to face the harshness of the real world.  They should not be hugged and kissed or picked up and held whenever they cried.

In 1946 the first edition of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care appeared.  Dr. Spock was a pediatrician who had studied psychoanalysis in order to understand children’s needs.  He recommended that mothers be more flexible and affectionate.  Treat each child as a unique individual, feed her when she is hungry, tell her how special she is.

The first approach to child nurture was too rigid and uncaring.  Dr. Spock’s advice sounded like a great improvement, but it has resulted in numerous scenes like the one above (witnessed by my wife a few years ago).

Parents in France never signed on with either North American extreme.  Mothers in France are loving and affectionate, yet expect their babies to quickly adapt to sleeping through the night.  As soon as possible, they are put on a regular feeding schedule.  The child learns very early, with very little fuss, that he is not the boss, Maman is.  Baby will be loved and cared for, but the other people in the house need to sleep, too.

Maman is the boss in the kitchen, too.  She decides what the family will eat and Junior will eat what everyone else eats.  The diet is much more varied than a typical North American diet and Junior is expected to eat what is on his plate.  Yet Maman understands that Junior needs time to learn to enjoy a new food, so she only insists that he taste a little bit of everything on his plate.  She knows that it might take up to a dozen tastes before Junior decides that this new food is really OK.  So Junior finds this new food on his plate from time to time and knows that he needs to at least taste it.  There is no whining: “I don’t like this,” nor loud commands: “You have to eat it anyway!”

In many such little ways, a child is constantly, yet gently, reminded that Maman and Papa are the ones in charge.  It works.  The child knows the rules, feels secure, and actually has more freedom than many young North American children.  It doesn’t sound like there are many “helicopter mothers” in France, hovering over their little darling for fear that he might come to some harm.

Parental authority is undisputed in France.  North American parents don’t believe that they have such authority, or are afraid that they might somehow ruin their children’s lives if they attempt to exercise such authority.  In this way the children become victims and the results show up as the child grows older, develops learning difficulties, becomes more anxious, more rebellious.  The typical North American solution to these problems?  A pill.  But that’s not a solution, just another problem, another victimization of our children.

Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.  Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged (Colossians 3:20-21).

Two or three gathered together doth not a church make

Why do people stop going to church?  Could it be because so may churches are not really churches?  Matthew 18:20 does not speak about Christians gathering for worship.  It is a continuation of the passage beginning at verse 15 and speaks of the testimony of two or three witnesses in discipling a wayward brother.  A big problem today is the notion of a church as a loose association rather than a brotherhood of disciples.

Jesus said: “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).  What rock?  Paul gives the answer: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11); “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).

What does it mean to be built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ?  Is it enough to have prayed the sinner’s prayer at some moment in one’s life?  Is it enough to give a testimony once in a while?  Go on a short term missionary trip?  Will tithing help?

“Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”  Do we ever wonder whether we are honest in the way we answer that question?

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”  How do we know if we are doing the will of the Father?  “ I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.  Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”

A church that is not squarely and solely built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ and which is not guided by the Holy Spirit in teaching and practising all the counsel of the Father, is a church that leaves people feeling restless, unfulfilled, and unsatisfied.

A church that takes people into membership based on a self-authenticated testimony of being a child of God will be a church that cannot help its members grow in their Christian life.  They try many substitutes to make people feel enthused and involved, but eventually the enthusiasm fades and the involvement becomes burdensome.

The church that Jesus is building will try to make everyone who enters her doors feel welcome, but will carefully examine those who apply for membership to see that they are truly born again, Holy Spirit-led children of God.  The apostle Paul describes this church as a body, with Christ as the head and the whole body functioning in obedience to the head and with love for one another.

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love”  (Ephesians 4:13-16).

This church will be known by the love among her members, the faithful preaching and teaching of the whole gospel and by her ability to discern and discipline sin in the membership.  This last part is not very fashionable today, yet there are many who testify of their thankfulness for the loving care of their brethren when they had fallen into sin.

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.  For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:2-4).

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