Tag: Ministry

More Than Mere Ecumenicism: #FortheUnityoftheChurch

Party-Spirit is something explicitly rejected in Scripture, yet it is something the Church in America has openly embraced. A New Reformation may be one of restoration, the question is will we join the Holy Spirit or fight against Him?

Jonathan David Faulkner

Authors Note: There is a bibliography attached to this article for your further reading. I pray you will prayerfully consider both sides of this issue and deeply consult scripture concerning these matters.

One of the places I would most like to visit in life is the Gravestone of Dr. Philip Schaff which reads: “He worked for the Unity of the Church.” The great church historian’s legacy is one we should aspire too, he was able to work across lines that were even more fervently drawn in the sand, and which would become more-so as the nineteenth century would draw to a close with the rise of reconstructionism and its particularly schismatic brand of fundamentalism that claimed to be: “the only true church.” Schaff understood what the Reformers after Luther did not, that the church is meant to be defined by its historical definition, that is as “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.” That no matter how many lines we drew in the proverbial sand, this is how scripture instructs us it should be and tells us a violation of through party spirit is tantamount to Antichrist. Schaff provides the Anti-Thesis to Hodge’s idea that schism is necessary to “Preserve the Gospel” pointing out that Hodge assumes it is a work of man that the gospel is preserved and not through the work of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Hodge’s inability to see the church as an organic body made one by the Holy Spirit and defined by its Love for one another (John 14:21) gave Schaff pause and it should give us pause as well. Schaff was right to say of the American Church that we were a Church without History, working so hard to preserve salvation by grace through faith that we neglected everything after thus reducing Christianity to mere conversionism where we bring people to the cross, but never into discipleship. If Billy Graham said in the 70’s that Christianity in America is “A mile wide and an inch deep” how much worse are we today?

Brothers and Sisters, I love the Church, not the brick and mortar buildings that we call the Church, but the flesh and blood, Spirit indwelled people that is the biblical church. I know the argument is: “Well that’s how it should be, but this is how it is and we cannot make it how it should be.” But if this is how it should be then why are we not falling on our knees, asking God for the unity of the Spirit that Jesus prayed we would have in John 17. The scriptural view of the Church is possible by the Holy Spirit and yes, if we are living out what scripture says the Church should be, it won’t make sense but to the outside world but Jesus promised us it wouldn’t and our refusal to even try, our demands that we keep up the dividing wall of hostility between one another that Christ worked to tear down. Our capitulation to Party-Spirit as some follow Presbyterianism, some follow Congregationalism, some follow Lutheranism, should absolutely break our hearts that in doing this we are doing exactly what Paul warned us against in 1 Corinthians 1:12 and 3:4. I love the church so much that our current reality has made me weep, as a pastor and as a member of the Body. We have taken the very thing Paul warned us against and, ignoring the questions: “Is Christ Divided?” We have cut him into twelve pieces and shipped him to the four corners of the globe. Oh God, please forgive us.

But before I get accused of being a romantic or emotional or even an ecumenic I want to make clear what I am saying here. Schism and Sect and Segregation do not preserve the Gospel, they divide up Christ. Going out and finding a church that meets our preferences and refusing to fellowship with churches that do not, divide Christ, Spreading rumors about the pastors of other churches or hoping that the other churches in town die so you can absorb them is sin and divides Christ. We have become so arrogant that we stand over the church and dictate to it how it should serve our preferences and theological viewpoints instead of relying on the living word of God which we claim is our ultimate authority.

These things even find their way into how we translate the Creed. For instance, in a hymnal your Creed may read: “I Believe in the Holy Spirit, The Holy Catholic Church, The Communion of Saints…” or that second line might read: “I Believe in the Holy Church” or “Holy Christian Church” I even saw one hymnal that said: “Holy Presbyterian Church.” The translation “Holy Christian Church” comes out of reconstructionism and fundamentalism that arose in the 1890’s, from a group claiming they were the “Only true expression of the Church and all others were apostate.” This is the height of party spirit; this is the people in 1 Corinthians 1:10 who said: “I Follow Christ.” The super-spiritual who looked down in mocking jeers at their peers who follow “Paul” or “Apollos.” We see the word “catholic” which in the Creed simply means “universal” or “part of the whole” and think it means “Roman Catholic” instead of digging deeper we just let our prejudice run wild. We then go a step further and try to make our denomination the only true denomination, rebuilding the walls of hostility that Christ worked so hard to tear down (Eph 2). This is sinful and denies both the power of scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit to the point of both quenching and grieving Him. Oh God, please forgive us.

I am not talking about mere ecumenism here; I do not just want denominations to work together across denominational isles. I am talking knocking down the walls of denominationalism altogether in favor of the biblical and historic definition of the Church. I want us to stop acting like our expression of the Church is how it is meant to be and return to a biblical model of the Church. I want the church to be what God intended the Church to be, a universal, set apart, family united by the Holy Spirit that bears witness in our words and actions to Christ and follows His teachings. That would make us the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church that we read about in scripture. Denominations are not even the problem, it is the human sinfulness, the hardness of our hearts towards the things of God and our neglect of those things in favor of what we want, not even what we find in scripture, but what our individualism says we deserve. Brothers and sisters, this is sin, this denies scripture, breaks fellowship, grieves the Holy Spirit and divides Christ.

What is interesting is that God is starting to heal these divisions. All over the united states now there are churches that are combining. Black Churches with White, Older churches with younger, Rich churches and poor. God is starting, by His spirit, to erase these lines sometimes even against our will. We seem to be at the beginning of a new era of reformation one not marked with unintended schism but with God-driven restoration. There is even a Church near me here that is made up of multiple Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches.

I have said before and I will say it again. Sect, Schism and Segregations are the unbiblical luxuries of the Church in Power, we are no longer in power, we are even starting to see persecution. Instead of grasping at the last vestiges of the “glory days” of Christendom, instead of denying this work of God of restoration. We should actively embrace it, work to see it through by the Holy Spirit and return to what the Church is biblically meant to be. We do not have the luxury of our consumeristic mindsets in the Church anymore and that reality is only going to keep growing and the church gets pushed more and more to the margins.

And this is a good thing, it may surprise you to know that the places in America where the Church is growing the fastest are places where the Church has already been pushed to the margins. Places like New England where the Pew Research Center recently found that the church in New England is actually “Thriving” when they expected to find it on death’s door. God is doing a work, but it is not the work we have been taught to expect Him to do with our late stage revivalism, unless you read scripture. God is calling His people back to himself, away from all their “isms” and back to one another. The Church in the Majority world has already experienced this and knows that a united church is better than a divided one.

Brothers and Sisters, I plead with you, do not divide Christ or let Him be divided. Our mission is meant to be carried out as one, not several splinters trying to do the same, or not doing what God has called us too, but trying to make sure our own preferences are met and our seat at the table of influence bought and paid for. John Williamson Nevin writes that: “The Church is One and universal (catholic). Unity is essential to her existence.” We no longer have the luxury in America, just as our brothers and sisters in the Majority World have never had the luxury of dividing. Secular Society is looking at us and our bible and asking us if we truly believe what is in there and telling us that if we truly believe then we should practice it. The Doctrine of the Organic Unity of the Church is an essential doctrine of Scripture. It pervades the entire text; it is one of the central themes of three of Paul’s Epistles. It is what Jesus prays for in John 17 and what the Holy Spirit living community of Acts demonstrates for us.

As I said earlier, I love the Church, but not the brick and mortar buildings that are the gathering place of the church, but the people, indwelled by the Holy Spirit who make up the Church who are the Body of Christ. If the government came in and locked all our church doors today and told us we could not gather, that would not be an end to the church, we would just have to follow the example set forth by many of our Asian brothers and sisters who have had to meet in secret.

The ironic thing is this may be the only way to preserve the Church in Rural America, by choosing to live out Gospel unity in a manner that gives up willingly our denominational lines drawn in the sand. This seems to be the path the Spirit is already leading us on as we see it happening more and more in towns and cities across the nation. The question is, are we going to fight against the Holy Spirit or join Him in the work of restoring His people, teaching us again that we are to be “Members, one of another” (Rom 12:5).

So let’s reject party spirit and do that which God has made clear in His word that we are to: “be eager to maintain a Spirit of Unity and the Bond of Peace” (Eph 4:3). So that we can carry the message of the Gospel to the ends of the Earth “Making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:20).

 

References

Charles Hodge, A.A Hodge . 2001. Discussions in Church Polity . Scarsdale : Westminster Publishing House .

Debie, Linden J. 2008. Speculative Theology and Common-Sense Religion: Mercersburg and the Conservative Roots of American Religion. Eugene : Pickwick Publications .

Evans, Tony. 2011. Oneness Embraced: Reconciliation, the Kingdom and how we are stronger together. Chicago , IL: Moody Press .

Ford, John T. 1988. “Ecumenical Studies .” In A Century of Church History: The Legacy of Philip Schaff, by Henry Bowdenn, 245-293. Carbondale: Soutern Illinois University Press .

George Marsden. 2006. Fundamentalism and American Culture, . London: Oxford University Press .

Hodge, Charles. 2017. “Response to the Principle of Protestanitsm (1845) .” In The Mercersburg Theology Study Series VIII The Devolopment of the Churh: The Principle of Protastantism and the Historical Writings of Philip Schaff , by Lee C. Barnett, David W. Layman, David R. Bains, Theodore Louis Trost W. Bradford Littlejohn, 209-224. Eugene : Pickwick Publications .

John Williamson Nevin, Sman Hendrix Jr. Charles E. Hanbrick-Stowe, David W. Laymen. 2017. One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic, Tome One: John Nevin’s Writings on Ecclesiology (1844-1849) . Eugene : Wfpf & Stock .

Miller, Samuel. 2016 . A Treatse on Mercersburg Theology or Mercersburg and Modern Theology Compared (1866). Philadelphia : CrossReach.

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “Antichrist: Or the Spirit of Sect and Schism (1848) .” In The Mercersburg Theology Series Vol Vi: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Tome One: The Ecclesiological Writings of John Williamson Nevin (1844-1850) , by John Williamson Nevin David W. Laymen, 160-245. Eugene : Wfpf & Stock .

Nevin, John Williamson. 2017. “Catholic Unity.” In The Mercersburg Theology Study Series Vol VI: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Tome One: The Ecclesiological Writings of John Williamson Nevin, (1844-1850), by John Williamson Nevin, David W. Laymen, 112=133. Eugene : Pfpf & Stock .

Philip Schaff, . 1964. “The Principle of Protestantism .” In The Lancaster Theology Series on the Mercersburg Theology V: VI , by J.W. Nevin, Ed Bard Thompson Philip Schaff, 48-219. Philidelphia : United Church Press.

Saneh, Lamin. 1995. “Global Christianity and the Re-Education of the West. .” The Christian Century 112.22 715-718.

Strange, Alan D. 2017. Ecclesiology of Charles Hodge. Phillipsburg : P&R Publishing .

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

Why Jars of Clay is Still one of My Favorite Bands

  1. Why Jars of Clay is Still one of My Favorite Bands.
  2. Fired Up Logo
  3.  
  4. (Supporting Dan Haseltine’s comments and Christina Love)
  5.  (DISCLAIMER: This is an exhortation, we are all covered in grace, please take it with a grain of salt.) 

            So this week Dan Haseltine of the Christian Super-Star band Jars of Clay took to Twitter to talk about his support of Same Sex Marriage. The comments, as they usually do when someone in the spotlight makes such comments we jump on top of them, call them a heretic and stop buying their books / music / TV shows etc because they have “Abandoned their Christian heritage.” Haseltine faced more abuse in three days then some people do in their entire lifetime, and a lot of it was from the church.

Before I go on though, I want to consider who this man is. In all my years of listening to Jars of Clay, owning 12 of their albums and listing “Who We Are Instead” as one of the top 5 albums of all time I have found the band to be a thinking band. They tend to be up front and honest about life and their honesty is well-thought out. Just listen to the songs “Show you Love” or “Collide” or “Unforgetful You.” Can you tell me those songs did not have a lot of thought put into them. Consider “Collide” (If I left the Zoo), a song about wrestling with a truer, and more refined version of love that comes from the father. The band has always had something to say, in the words of one of my mentors (whose son was a founding member of Jars) “They are all thinkers.” This is evidenced in the band’s music, the depth of their lyrics at times astounds me, makes me wish I wrote that deep all the time.

Yet on a flight home from Australia he started to ask questions, and instead of helping him answer them, we attacked him, called him a heretic, told him that he did not believe in the bible. Some of the things tweeted at the man were abusive. Some of the articles people wrote were atrocious. Just like the World Vision decision I found myself let down by the church, instead of showing grace to a brother, we released articles asking people to “Boycott Jars concerts.”

Honestly this gets old, am I perfect, I do not believe so. Have I been a part of controversies in the past? Yes! Did I leave a mainline denomination over the issue of Same Sex marriage & Ordination? Yes. I will never claim to be perfect, if I do someone please tweet a reminder at me. This is not the point though, this is far from the point.

The point is this: If the church is to engage a secular culture, to encourage social righteousness and even social justice. Then we must first stop engaging in these vain discussions of whether Haseltine was right or wrong and start answering the hard questions that he is asking. Mainly: “By not supporting same-sex marriage am I participating in a form of oppression?”

I believe as a church today we have developed a dangerous and unhelpful infectiveness that has led to a heavy dose of what I call “Corinthian Syndrome.” We like to talk about big issues, or blow small issues out of proportion to make us feel good about the things that we do not want to talk about but know are sins. A while back I was discussing the issue of Homosexuality with one of my brothers in Christ, a man who to this day amazes me with his insights. He said: “All sins are an affront to God, not one is greater than the other, we just make one worse than another.” We make one sin greater than the other, your gluttony is not as bad as your neighbors covetedness, and so on and so forth. Haseltine just so happened to comment on the issue that the church likes to make the focal point of every sermon on sin. Ignoring the root sin (Lust) and going straight for the throat of the gay community instead of acknowledging that Lust is a sin we all have to struggle with.

Is this not contrary to what Christ commanded? Does the commandment of “Love your neighbor” not extend to the gay man who lives down the street? Apparently it does not for some Christians, at one point in my life it did not for me either. Yet as I get older in my faith I have come to realize the damage we are doing to our own witness by attacking Haseltine, not even by not showing the love of Christ to the gay community, but by attacking Haseltine, world Vision, the owner of Chick Fil-A (need I go on). Realize that person is your brother in Christ, Haseltine is your brother in Christ, The director of World Vision is your brother in Christ, I am your brother in Christ. Remember Jesus words in Matthew 5:

 

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

(Matthew 5:21-22 ESV)

 

By treating Haseltine and others in a hateful and bitter manner for asking these questions has made us a condemnation all unto ourselves. To the world it looks as though we are fighting another civil war, forgetting that there is a world that needs Christian Love now more than ever. Separated by opinions formed with an understanding of scripture that is neither nourished by grace or dependent on the spirit of God, we fight and eat and drink while some are left out in the spiritual cold. We have adopted the Corinthians way of life, allowing the bitterness rivaling Fred Phelps to seep in towards one another and towards the world.

We need to learn to be the love of Christ again.

And I am not talking about a flowerly, watered down love either. I am talking about a love that is not afraid to ask the tough questions, a love that operates with the intent to bring others into the kingdom. A love that can transform the church, transform the communities, transform the world. I am talking about an accountable love, a tough love. I am talking of Christian Love.

We must know that Christ wants us to be better than this. Regardless of how you feel about gay-marriage attacking another believer for asking questions about it is far from Christian Love. So I support Dan Haseltine because he is asking the questions and wanting to seek answers. He still holds to scriptures, but as far as the world goes he has a point, should Christians not hear the cries of all people, regardless of feelings towards a specific splinter group and show them the love of Christ?

I personally believe if we are to win anyone into the kingdom we must do it through the passionate, truth bearing, life giving love that we were shown on the cross when Jesus died to save us.

 

FOR THE RECORD: This article is not intended to be a commentary on gay rights, for biblical & reasons of consciousness I do not and will not support gay rights in the church. However, that should never stop me from loving those people who God commands us to love, or showing the gay community Christ’s love through my actions. As Christians we are to be above reproach, something we fall short of oh so often, something I fall short of, we are called to glorify God in all that we do, should that not mean how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as those who do not believe?

The Ministry Eb & Flow

            It’s just common sense that when you do Ministry you are going to see some changes in the people and the faces around you. Throughout the journey of Ministry we will see lives transformed, and not just the lives of those we are ministering too but those who work with us. No matter what you do in Ministry there will be change.

I was reminded of this during the week when the assistant director of Social Media & Marketing told me he felt the need to step down. Now, believe it or not this wasn’t a surprise to me, I knew it was going to happen, I expected it to happen. I had already started making plans with the leadership team to add one other person, though I was expecting them to be in place long before David stepped down. As it stands though David has stepped down and we haven’t even received an answer from our fourth leadership team prospect.

But that is how ministry goes, I suppose. You may have people who are in it for the long run and you may have some people there for  a short amount of time. David was only in leadership for five months before stepping down to join the writing team. But in that five months he practically built the 10:31 Life website. He updated and set in motion a growth in our social media presence and helped to get the organization on its feet again.

It won’t soon be forgotten all that David has done to help this ministry get restarted after it was nearly dead at the beginning of the last ministry year. But that’s the way Ministry goes it seems, as I said, some people are there for the long run and some are just short term. While it’s true that David will still be involved at 10:31, he will not be a leader that is a change, now Angel and I have to adapt, find someone to take the place.

So what do we in times like this? I’m finding the best thing to do is to pray. God’s in control of your ministry, doesn’t he know what’s best for all involved. I know that I’ve felt led to step out of ministry positions because of the amount of strain it has put on me in the past. Someone is always there to fill the role, and if they aren’t then maybe there’s a reason. At 10:31 we found someone within the organization to temporarily fill the Social Media and Marketing position. The person actually said if they like it they would take on the full responsibilities of the position.

I think a lot of the time when we do ministry and something goes wrong we give up. At least the perception is that something’s going wrong. Some might gasp at the fact that DT stepped down (in fact some have) but I know there’s a bigger purpose there. This ministry, as much as it has my name on it, isn’t mine, it belongs to the Lord. If this type of surrender is what’s needed for it to be effective then so be it.

The goal is to learn how to do ministry anyway right? So why wouldn’t God teach us how to handle personnel decisions beyond hiring new writers? Which by the way we have added two new ones. God’s got a plan for every ministry, He has a purpose for every good work. As I learn this it becomes clearer that He is also going to see that plan through to the end.

Because I can’t tell you how true it is that God qualifies the called, this is just part of the qualification process.

God Bless You
Jonathan David Faulkner
10:31 Life Ministries
Director/Founder