While the power hungry prelates try to change my local kirk to that it is more fashionable, particularly around removing our ban on people being able to be in ministry while living together. I’m looking at a brother who suffers by being a member of the Methodists — and is finding that a woman leader is quietly (as they do, I have seen the same thing) removing from her teaching anything that feels icky to her.
But, on a more general level, why are people in so many denominations so arrogant as to think they know better than the Ancient Councils of the Church who defined the canon of Scripture and to toss out of consideration anything that does not fit with the spirit of the age. From Anglicans and Presbyterians ordaining homosexually active men and women, to Methodist Local Preachers who do believe that it is permissible to junk parts of Scripture because it is culturally inconvenient, to stories coming out from one of the modern non-denominational churches of abuse of authority, sin seems to be prevalent throughout the Church. Jesus himself was recorded as telling us “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
If we are not different, we are useless. If we do not work we are unable to fund those who work full time. And if we go soft, ignore the hard things in the gospel such as sin and guilt and judgment — we will not change. We need to be convicted to change.
And when society wants us to sear our conscience as say that what is wrong is not only acceptable, but right, we are heading to the sins of Sodom (which were more that Homosexual Gang Rape (TM), the people were unjust, oppressive, and loved their comforts.
Now Jehu has some suggestions as to what to do about this. I will interperse my comments to these.
1. Teach your pastors to in general use the Scriptural Exposition method of preparing and delivering sermons. Just like avoiding being alone behind closed doors with attractive young women that you’re not married to, this greatly reduces the occasion of temptation when preaching. The sort of temptation is to grind one’s own particular ax or to make accommodation to the culture, rather than to God. You see, if you preach entire books of the Bible, not avoiding any uncomfortable passages or books, you will be forced out of your cultural comfort zone into the deep wherein you and your congregation can actually encounter the actual God of Christianity, rather than the god of Churchianity. In particular, make sure to give the Old Testament its due, because frankly, the New Testament makes zero sense without the ‘spiritual grammar’ of the Old.
The alternative is to use the lectionary — the revised common one is accepted by most — and include in your sermon all the scripture that is being discussed. If you do this you are relying on how the scholars over the centuries made the scriptures sing in harmony through the church year. And you will be forced to know the psalms and read the prophets.
2. Don’t take official positions on things wherein the Tradition and practice of Christians throughout the ages are contrary to yours. Not only are you EXTREMELY likely to be wrong when the Communion of the Saints from AD500, 1000, 1500, 1750, 1850, and even 1950 disagree with you, but you are contributing to a hatred of the Church among a lot of people who might have become believers back then and you are seriously squandering your offense budget. Remember this: Simply saving nobody comes to the Father but through Jesus is plenty offensive. When you absolutely need to take political positions on moral issues that have become political, make sure the Christians of the eras previously cited would mostly agree with you. Also, in pretty much every case, your endorsements ought to be negative–as in, don’t vote for X.
We have enough things as believers we disagree with. We have things that we have always agreed on. This is one reason I disagree with churches that do not have creeds — we separate ourselves from the previous generations of believers at our peril.
Besides, no one would argue that a Calvinist in France or a Jesuit in England — placing their life on the line to preach and pastor — were wimps. The creeds reflect a state of war for souls. We need to rediscover this.
3. If you can’t take the Scriptural position on a cultural war issue, at least be silent. Taking the world’s position on said issue simply aggravates the problems in 2). If you do 1), you’ll have a much easier time taking the Scriptural position.
4. Stop pushing size of congregation as the primary metric of success for pastors. This just intensifies the temptation to accommodation that pastors constantly face. Also, in groups of 150 or less, people can actually be regarded as human beings, as opposed to mere social constructs.
When your church gets so big you cannot fit in a small hall, find another hall and divide. Mega churches mean no one is accountable.
5. Purge your seminaries of heretics. If you need guys with floppy hats and red robes to do it, using surprise and other tools, so be it. Just get it done.
If you have to disassociate from the local university because they will want to promote a heretic into the chair because of his high citation rate, do so. In fact, pro-actively removing yourself from the academic power game and degree credentialing is a wise thing. The church needs to answer to Christ, not the the vice chancellor.
6. Stop being afraid of talking about Hell. Jesus talked about Hell plenty, way more than Paul, for instance. He also didn’t talk about it like it was a place that only a very select few got into—broad highway and ‘many find it’ were more His speed on said issue. Does someone who fails to tell you about a deep dark pit with spikes at the bottom that is in front of you in your path of travel for fear of offending you love you? Hell No!
We need to practice “informed consent”. You have to choose life — which is going to be costly, for following Christ will uproot your life — or death, which is easy. Just follow your human nature. To quote one of the Orthodox Saints.
There is among the passions an anger of the inteUect, and this anger is in accordance with nature. Without anger a man cannot attain purity: he has to feel angry with all that is sown in him by the enemy. When Job felt this anger he reviled his enemies, calling them “dishonorable men of no repute, lacking everything good, whom I would not consider fit to live with the dogs that guard my flocks’ (cf Job 30:1, 4. LXX). He who wishes to
acquire the anger that is in accordance with nature must uproot all self-will, until he establishes within himself
the state natural to the intellect.
If you find yourself hating your fellow men and resist this hatred, and you see that it grows weak and withdraws, do not rejoice in your heart; for this withdrawal is a trick of the evil spirits. They are preparing a second attack worse than the first; they have left their troops behind the city and ordered them to remain there. If you go out to attack them, they will flee before you in weakness. But if your heart is then elated because you have driven them away, and you leave the city, some of them will attack you from the rear while the rest will stand their ground in front of you; and your wretched soul will be caught between them with no means of escape. The city is prayer. Resistance is rebuttal through Christ Jesus. The foundation is mcensive power.
Let us stand firm in the fear of God, rigorously practicing the virtues and not giving our conscience cause to stumble. In the fear of God let us keep our attention fixed within ourselves, until our conscience achieves its freedom. Then there will be a union between it and us, and thereafter it will be our guardian, showing us each thing that we must uproot. But if we do not obey our
Now, we need to guard the wells of teaching, and the development of intellect. Without the truth being taught, people will not be maintained in Christ.
We need to stop being ashamed of our anger. We need to use it to confront. to challenge, and to drive out error and sin. In us, and in our leadership.
For if we are of the world, in this time, we are useless.