Category: Real Church


Being Different

Being Different

Exploring the possibility of real unity under one roof despite differences of opinion

When Seeing Beyond is Unwelcome                            

Consider what happens in a church group when a member or two begin to think differently, and perhaps even see beyond the horizons of their group. Most groups don’t facilitate open sharing, and even where some do, anything outside of certain domains of thinking is quickly shut down. And, where there is openness to be heard by a leader or pastor on a subject, you are generally herded by their reasoning into their camp of prescribed denominationalism or particular church bias.

In these environments, members cannot co-exist under one roof with openly professed diverse thinking, never mind different practices. In fact, if you don’t withdraw and conform (religiously called “submit”), then you are likely to hear something resembling, “If you don’t like it here then perhaps you need to find a group that thinks like you do and rather meet and worship with them.” But, is this a suitable outcome?

Prohibited from comfortably sharing their new found views with their brothers and sisters to reflect on, and unable to explore possible growth with others in that area, people may feel the need to then leave the group and fellowship elsewhere. When this happens, those enjoying life within the “safe” parameters of the original group can be very unsympathetic toward those wanting to leave. They can consider them to be rebellious and un-submissive to leadership and their church’s established views.

This type of leadership and group control is destructive both to individual and corporate growth which require personal freedom along with mutual submission to bring about true unity. Also, true unity does not come through controlling people’s behavior, but rather through recognizing that foundationally unity already exists through each member’s inclusion into the body of Christ. We can flow with unity and grow it, but we cannot undo it at its starting point. That said, all fellowship should be founded on this basis alone despite our differences in points of view.

Unfortunate Dilemma

So, the problem with denominationalism, and most groups for that matter, is that if a person’s ideas start to become too varied from that of the group, then depending on the issue, they may be faced with the predicament of needing to choose between staying or leaving. It’s a sad dilemma where they may feel that by staying they would be compromising their growth and that by going they would compromise the fellowship that they have enjoyed.

Clearly, denominationalism, guru following and fellowship based on uniformity of thinking are flawed ways for building on the unity that we already have as members of Christ’s body. Yet, people are content to feed off teachers rather than Christ, be happily ignorant of God’s word and find security in environments that easily fuel division and that one day may serve only to spit them out too.

So, how can we enjoy safe healthy fellowship with one another despite, at times, holding conflicting views?

In my next post I’ll share more on this.

Rob

Other posts in this series:

Part 1: God’s Home

Part 2: Issues and Opinions

Part 3: Blissfully Ignorant in My Church

Part 5: Dividing over Issues

Part 6: Loving the Wacky, Not Their Wackiness

Part 7: Preeminent Leaders and Super-Gurus

Very useful post by Jim Wright, Crossroad Junction, on healthy leadership within authentic organic church plants.

BlissfulExploring the possibility of real unity under one roof despite differences of opinion

Different camps of thinking easily form into what become exclusive groups (exclusive to certain thinking and practices) especially where leadership is top down and where the leaders impart and control the belief system. Denominations are examples of these clusters of believers who are like minded on certain issues of faith. And, many local churches operate in the same way. This sameness is also brought about because members simply assume or are duped into thinking that all must be right in their denomination, house church or fellowship.

This sameness especially flourishes where folk are guru followers rather than Jesus followers. And, I don’t only mean the Super-Gurus, like the international speakers and book writers, but also how folk relate to the leaders and pastors in their fellowship. You see, it seems many people blindly take all that is said by anointed teachers to be true simply because they were touched at one time or another through that person’s ministry.

Satisfied with the claim that their denomination or church is Bible-based, most folk seem to be content in the environments that they are being discipled in. With everything explained to them from their trusted source, they seem oblivious, or act oblivious, or are kept oblivious to fair representation of other points of view on the big issues.

Clearly, this claim by churches and teachers to Biblical authority for their points of view is flawed when we have a multitude of denominations, churches and Super-Guru’s who claim this and yet differ in so many significant areas. It’s a bit of hit-and-miss when it comes to certain issues and they’re often discipling others with their own view of Scripture, which at times departs from the truth.

Keeping people ignorant of fully represented views by anybody in the Body of Christ is not protective of unity but ultimately entrenches division. Unity with diversity under one roof must be possible, or we are not living out our DNA of being known by our love, not our doctrine.

In my next post I’ll share on the problem of being different.

Rob

Other posts in this series:

Part 1: God’s Home

Part 2: Issues and Opinions

Part 4: The Problem of Being Different in Church

Part 5: Dividing over Issues

Part 6: Loving the Wacky, Not Their Wackiness

Part 7: Preeminent Leaders and Super-Gurus

Free to be different

Free to be different

Exploring the possibility of real unity under one roof despite differences of opinion

There are all kinds of opinions on a wide range of important issues in the Body of Christ. To name just a few, consider matters like women in ministry, children ministry, our response to homosexuals, the gifts of the Spirit, and styles of church governance and leadership. These are some of the bigger challenges that we are sometimes faced with, which, if handled badly, can cause unnecessary division.

(In this post, I’ll be focusing on the effects that our differences of opinion have on unity. However, that said, it’s quite often the little foxes that ruin the vineyard. Things like gossip, unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness probably turn out to be more destructive and divisive than our differences over the larger issues.)

Now, regular church folk have a range of opinions on different topics. Some views may be quite developed while others are less established. Some are based on the Bible, others on what they’ve heard, and still others on what they feel, and to top it off there are those views that are endorsed with a “God told me…” label. And, oddly, some feel that the later can even trump the first (see my post, The Words of the Bible are Alive for more on this issue). Generally though, most views are often probably a combination of these sources.

Then, alongside (although sadly typically above these folk) are those who are discipling the flock, like your typical pastors and teachers. They tend to hold better honed, but, nevertheless, diverse opinions on different issues too. Based on the Bible of course! At least those that good evangelical Christians would even begin to consider listening to.

This is the conundrum, that those who claim that the Bible, undoubtedly the purest source, is their source of inspiration still get varied results. So, clearly claiming the correct source for your ideas does not mean that you have its content. Now, the problem is not the Bible, but the one reading and studying.

(For help on reading and studying your Bible I have a site that you might find useful at Bible Coaching: How to Read & Study the Bible.)

Chasing Nirvana

If the ideal was always true, where the life and thoughts that are shared and taught emanate only from Jesus and a pure understanding of the Bible, then all would be well. However, we know that such an ideal is an unrealistic constant and that at best exists only in part. Nevertheless, people, especially new believers, find comfort zones that appear to them to be the ideal, only later to discover the flaws. And, when this happens, and the issues are big, fellowship can be ruined.

Those happy with the status quo feel threatened when differing views crop up amongst members on important issues. Their insecurity and the need to have all persons think alike, demands that all should return to the default. Sadly, this protective response has the opposite effect and threatens to jettison the unity and fellowship rather than save it, or at best maintain only a false unity based on ignorance, fear, insecurity and intimidation. Would you like to join :)?

But, should our differences, even over big issues, divide us? And, can we maintain unity, able to lovingly fellowship week in and week out under the same roof despite the differences of opinion that may arise in our fellowships? History has shown that we have struggled to do this, but surely it’s possible?!

In my next post I’ll share more on this issue.

Rob

Part 1: God’s Home

Part 3: Blissfully Ignorant in My Church

Part 4: The Problem of Being Different in Church

Part 5: Dividing over Issues

Part 6: Loving the Wacky, Not Their Wackiness

Part 7: Preeminent Leaders and Super-Gurus

BrotherhoodExploring the possibility of real unity under one roof despite differences of opinion

Imagine if this was posted in a local newspaper:

I’m a Christian in a new Exploring city and I’m hoping to find healthy fellowship with other brothers and sisters. I would love to be with a group of people who share God’s love with each other and who cherish one another’s place in the body of Christ. An environment where everyone gets to participate and be blessed through one another’s life and gifting. A group where I would feel accepted and really listened to even if I should start thinking differently from everyone else. Not that I want to change others to think like me, but where I can really be free to be me. You know, like in a pub after a few beers 🙂? Oh, and I would like the leaders to be real about their lives, and not above me, but next to me, like brothers and sisters. Is there any group in the city like this?

Even if not at first, this kind of hope often becomes just an illusion for many. And, they find themselves having to settle for one of the various forms of dysfunction where the group or its leaders sadly push their agendas at the expense of true fellowship and unity.

In my next post I’ll share more on this hope that I believe we all have for real fellowship.

Rob

Other posts in this series:

Part 2: Issues and Opinions

Part 3: Blissfully Ignorant in My Church

Part 4: The Problem of Being Different in Church

Part 5: Dividing over Issues

Part 6: Loving the Wacky, Not Their Wackiness

Part 7: Preeminent Leaders and Super-Gurus

The Super Guru Culture

Suoer Guru

Suoer Guru

The Making of a Super Guru

Some gifted men and women of God are unfortunately elevated to super-guru-status in the Body of Christ. Be they world renowned or local favorites, some individuals are treated as though they were a cut above everyone else. Sometimes it’s in part their doing, fueled by how they carry themselves, but it’s always as a result of how they are perceived by those around them. In other words, they are never totally self-made.

I am not saying that men and women of God cannot be greatly used by God and in some cases become world renowned. But, when these individuals are treated with more reverence than everyone else and people dance to their every tune and hang on their every word then they have gone seriously off track. This often appears as a form of honoring, which it may be, but this type of über-honoring is exclusive to them and is not only counter to God’s design, but also cripples the Body of Christ. (For more on this see my post, No Rank, Only Roles in The Body of Christ.)

Those positively affected by the teachings of an individual, or the signs and wonders associated with them, or even by the love they’ve received from them, easily fall prey to follow, and even elevate, a human and not Jesus Himself. People seem to fail to see that when they were touched through these individuals that it was Christ who touched them and that apart from Christ these individuals had nothing.

Sometimes, these gifted men and women are innocent of creating this super status given to them, and it’s simply the carnality of those in the church that helps make super-gurus out of people. The church in Corinth had this problem with some saying,“’I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’” (1Cor.1:12), and Paul spoke strongly against this. Others carry themselves in a way that demands superior treatment and people fall for it. John spoke a certain “Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them” (3John1:9).

Church created super-gurus can easily fall into the trap of enjoying this status given to them.  And, then, somewhat deluded, these gurus find support and defense for their delusion from their followers. This cult-like following that arises reinforces the sense that the delusion is truth and creates a feeling of security for those caught in it.

Nip it in the Bud

It’s one thing expecting a reasonable man to be accountable to others in the Body of Christ and God’s word, but far harder a deluded one, and then on top of it, supported by a band of deluded followers. Now, I’m not talking about those we generally all think are whacko, but rather the gifted men or women, pastors, teachers, etc. who are pretty much on the straight and narrow with their views. It’s by allowing these individuals to speak and act with an air of superiority and the false notion of God-given preeminence, or by allowing them to be thought of in such an elevated way that we help to create these untouchable personas.

Many a regular pastor, Christian teacher and blogger have been tainted by this to some degree or another, but it becomes easily magnified in the more well known “apostles”, teachers, etc. We are responsible for creating and allowing this problem and we need to nip it in the bud before it begins. Nip it in the bud in your own thinking about gifted people. And, nip it in the bud in the way you carry and think about yourself. Deal with it in your fellowships when you hear people wrongly elevate others.

Personally, I don’t kowtow to hierarchy in the church anymore or to illustrious gurus. I disdain any hierarchy in the Body of Christ and also this guru culture that feeds this problem. These are the ways of the world that we have brought into the church and that causes partiality, the unhealthy dependence on individuals and is the cause of people going astray.

Rob

Peacock - CopyLeadership is determined by the extent you influence regardless of rank. And, contrary to how most local churches and denominations have been structured and governed, the New Testament church did not use or require hierarchy when it came to leadership. The elders, whether apostles, prophets, evangelists or pastors and teachers, had no rank in the body of Christ.  The respect due to them was by virtue of their calling to a particular role of servanthood in the body of Christ. Rank and titles did not exist, only roles.

The honor and respect that anyone received was the fruit that came from an environment of mutual submission. This atmosphere allowed for the recognition of one another’s roles. And, not only was this the case, but to further reinforce this counter-worldly-thinking, Paul said “On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are in fact indispensable, and the parts of the body that we think are less honorable are treated with special honor, and we make our less attractive parts more attractive. However, our attractive parts don’t need this. But God has put the body together and has given special honor to the parts that lack it,  so that there might be no disharmony in the body, but that its parts should have the same concern for each other” (1Cor. 12:22-25).

Those in the Body of Christ who were more mature were able to assist the Chief Shepherd as elders in shepherding the flock. God’s word, whether written or spoken, was the only authority. Consequently the elders had no more or less authority than anyone else. And yet, through their maturity and experience in the knowledge of God’s word they were able to be useful guides to each other and especially the young in the flock.

Sadly, this style of church was eroded over time by the desire for control and power among its leaders. And, in time, the church began taking on the very leadership styles of this world that Jesus told them, in Matthew 20:25-27 and 23:2-12, to stay away from. In these passages you will see that Jesus not only taught that we aren’t to lord it over one another, but also that we are not to even have authority over one another, nor use titles, because we are all brothers. See for yourself:

“But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister (servant); And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant (slave)” (Matt. 20:25-27).

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat … But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 23:2-12).

Rob

mFTU2t6[1]In the West, a consumer mentality is often fostered in us even when it comes to church. We, unfortunately, all too easily have a “What’s in it for me?” attitude. And, where this exists, little is required of every member to grow in real love and care for each other. And, we like it that way!

Unfortunately, as a result of this, we experience a shallow form of what church really is. While we go deeper and deeper in knowledge with our countless programs, teachings and seminars, we remain poor in true fellowship where genuine love is fostered.

A Family, Not a Business 

Our family is currently planning a trip to Disney World where a bunch of professionals do a superb job of running around in order to make the visitors happy. Isn’t this what church has become for many of us? In contrast, church life should be like family life where flexibility and sensitivity is fostered among every member toward one another and their needs.

Small Groups

Church cell groups, as well as organic, simple and house churches all contribute to making church more real, intimate and participatory for many and I would say are probably less prone to being consumer-oriented. And, I would also greatly encourage everyone to participate in a group of this nature. However, having said that, these groups often struggle to know how to adequately incorporate children with their needs into their gatherings.

Chidren

What to do with the children can easily be a bone of contention and as a result it is probably ignored rather than addressed. Isn’t it strange that, “leave well alone” is the adage followed when all isn’t well. In this case, not addressing this issue of properly incorporating our children is at the peril of a healthy church life, the children’s best and their desire to remain attending when as adults the choice becomes theirs.

Let’s remember that children who have come to faith are a part of His Body. They need nourishment and are even able to nourish. The joy of successfully incorporating everyone should be our goal, especially those that Jesus demonstrated He would never turn away.

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Recently I read a post called, “So Whaddaya do With the Kids” at http://www.home-church.org/voicesdocs/whaddaya.html  that demonstrates a wise, incorporative and selfless model worth considering.  I put it to you as an example “…so that you may know how one is to behave in God’s household, which is the church of the living God (1 Tim 3:15).

Rob Morley

Hanging out

Real Church! Our very selves given to Jesus alone, alive and living by His faith, knit together in His Body, and as He leads, nourishing one another and calling and touching this world with His love.

What or Who is Church to you?

Rob Morley

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