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 21, 2018
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For years I have been reading statements that go something like this:
“The greatest stumbling block to Christian missions is the confused message coming from the divisions among those who call themselves Christians.”
I would like to propose a radical solution. Jesus said “I will build my church.” Why don’t we just let Him do it?
That would mean that we would all need to have an experience like Paul had on the road to Damascus. We would need to abandon all of our own ideas about how to build the kingdom of God and ask “Lord, what would thou have me to do?”
Some years later, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers [servants] by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).
Let’s stop giving honour to people as builders of the church, become mere servants taking all our direction from God, and giving all the honour to Him.
Perhaps it is time to define in simple terms what is meant by the Anabaptist faith. So here is my definition, in point form. I will share further thoughts on these points in future posts.
1. Unadulterated Biblical faith, taking the Bible as a unified book of which all parts point to Jesus Christ.
2. Accessible to all people, regardless of nationality, language or social status.
3. Genuine brotherly love, supporting and serving each other in times of material, emotional and spiritual need.
4. Abhorrence of sin, because it is the one thing that can separate us from God.
5. Servant leadership, without hierarchy. Jesus Christ is the head of the church, no man shall exercise lordship over his brothers and sisters.
6. The use of force is renounced.
7. Moral purity, a commitment to maintaining healthy, happy homes.
© Bob Goodnough, May 1, 2013