October 20, 2018
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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;
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
February 7, 2016
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Fifty years ago, I was the manager of a country grain elevator in a small Saskatchewan town. It was a very small town, the only businesses were two grain elevators, two service stations, and a small building containing the town’s café, general store and post office.
Bill Alcock, an eighty year old retired farmer, lived on the east side of town. He drove a Mercury Comet with a standard shift and was stone deaf. Around ten o’clock every morning I would hear a loud roar as old Bill drove his Comet down the street by the elevators, making the four block trip to get his mail. The car moved at a very sedate speed as Bill held the gas pedal almost to the floor and the clutch at about the same position.
Bill never could figure out why the clutch in his car needed replacing so often. It was no great mystery to the rest of us who witnessed his daily parade to and from the corner store and could actually hear the roar of the engine.
The dictionary defines temperance as self-control, or self-restraint. Would that mean something like Bill’s style of driving? Am I temperate if I maintain a calm and mild outward demeanour while there is fire glinting from my eyes and wisps of smoke curling from my ears? I’m afraid that I would be able to maintain that mild outward demeanour for only so long before my self-restraint snapped and the fire burst from my mouth to singe the hair and eyebrows of whoever had got me so fired up.
Wait a minute. Let’s step back and consider what is happening here. Is it really the other person who is stoking that fire within me? Or am I doing it myself? Logic tells me that the other person is responsible for the things he does and says; the way I react is entirely my own responsibility.
There may be people who are naturally endowed with a nature that does not get fired up when challenged by people or circumstances. I am not one of them – not by nature at least. If I am now able to face challenging situations without danger of explosion, all the credit must go to the Holy Spirit.
If I now appear to be a person who is moderate and temperate (and I hope I do), it is due to the moderating and tempering influence of the Holy Spirit on my inner thoughts and feelings, not to any innate gentleness in my nature.