Thursday, September 05, 2013

A local church that finally makes sense…

I had an excellent meeting with a pastor of a local church this afternoon as a part of my continuing quest to find a faithful church consistent with my understanding of Biblical teachings.

Our discussion revolved around the following topics:

1. When you hear people comment that God’s “hedge of protection” is being lifted, what comes to mind? Comment on how this applies…

    • To Israel
    • To the United States
    • To “The Church”
    • To individual Christian believers

2. What is today’s greatest threat to the Church (comment on each one):

    • Our government
    • Materialism
    • Islam
    • Immorality
    • Lack of faith
    • People who don’t live their faith
    • People who ignore or question doctrine or Bible teaching

3. Judging vs. discerning:

    • Does the Bible distinguish between “judging” and “discerning?”
    • Is “judging prohibited? Or is it a Christian responsibility? Explain.

4. Looking for a church: What keeps me from selecting a church home in the area of The Villages?  Am I …

    • Too critical?
    • Fearing commitment?
    • Occasionally feeling that a church home is not essential?
    • Concerned the style of worship of too many churches is too casual and disrespectful?
    • Observing that church preaching and teaching lack substance or relevance to what is going on in the world?
    • Led to believe that churches are ignorant of or indifferent to the threats to Christianity in the world?
    • Noticing that church preaching/teaching is too liberal or too “feel good”; all about “tolerating everything.”

5.  Does the Bible provide principles for the best way for believers to govern themselves and how to relate to civil government? Are church leaders discouraged by doctrine or hierarchy from equipping their congregations to influence their government in Biblical governance?


Starting from the top here are the results of our discussion:

This pastor believes that God’s “hedge of protection” applies to all four entities:  Israel, the United States, the Church, and individual Christians.  This view is consistent with how God interacts with all who are faithful to Him and who fall away, whether His chosen people, a formerly Christian nation, His Church, or His people.  He does provide a hedge of protection to the faithful as a general rule.  Of course historically, and even today there are gross persecutions of faithful Christians around the world, and especially at the hand of Muslims exerting their warped, Satanic version of “justice.”  This may be a consequence of the unfaithfulness and indifference of the Church Universal.

While he agreed the entire list of threats to the Church is valid, he focused on “materialism” as the greatest threat.  That keeps Christians from having God as a priority and has many other negative consequences.  He also agreed that Islam is an unaddressed threat in most churches and a significant threat to Christianity.  The Pastor exhibited a sound understanding of the evils of Islam and the need to inform his congregation of the Islamic threat.  He agreed that faith influences behavior and behavior influences faith just as what we take into our ears, eyes, and brain influence who we become.

Unlike most pastors I interviewed, he believes it is a Christian responsibility to judge – charitably.  Or as several commentaries put it – judge righteously, without hypocrisy.  The fact that we all sin and are all hypocrites to one degree or another should not keep us from discerning AND judging evil based on Biblical principles.

I laid my cards on the table for him regarding the likely reasons I was having a difficult time settling on a local church.  His own diagnosis of my reasons was that I could not find a church faithful to Biblical standards.  Most have been either mere purveyors of ancient Bible history disconnected from today’s challenges to the faith or were social centers providing entertainment and feel good self-improvement lectures.

And finally, I wanted to know his, his church’s, and his denomination’s views of the responsibilities of the church regarding “the State.”  The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has a policy that states:

“We reject any views that look to the church to guide and influence the state directly in the conduct of its affairs.”

This statement gave me some concern.  I believe a priority of the Church, right behind The Gospel, is The Law (Biblical morality).  The Law and The Gospel, together, must be taught to Christ’s followers in such a way that they are fully equipped and motivated to influence the culture which ultimately influences our government.  He concurred that this is indeed one of the Biblical responsibilities of the Church and that the above “policy statement” ought not to be over interpreted to minimize or dismiss this important Church responsibility.

Here is a brief summary of my criteria for a Church Home:

1. Bible based; morally and doctrinally conservative/orthodox.  Most churches, especially mainline Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal churches fall far short.

2. Church leaders and laymen enthusiastic about their faith and mission; friendly and outgoing.  In most churches attendees seem more interested in the entertainment and personal “feel good” counseling more than worship and understanding the Word of God.  Their enthusiasm is directed more at the socializing and entertainment than for what God offers.

3. More sacred/faith building, etc. rather than “social center.”  A reverent and a worshipful environment is important to me rather than the feeling of a carnival or an Amway business meeting.

4. Opportunities for growth and service via small groups or individual assignments.  This relatively small church is embarking on a variety of Bible-based small group activities that will help their participants grow in their faith.

5. Sermons that relate Bible themes not merely to self-improvement or “feel good” sermons but to themes of personal responsibility and self control, especially those related to challenging and overcoming the culture we live in. Current events, immoral cultural trends and competing world views used as object lessons to teach Bible principles should be a key component of most sermons

6. Prefer a Church that focuses great preponderance of church activities


    • Prayer/worship
    • Study/learning the Bible and Church doctrine
    • Understanding competing world views
    • Evangelism
    • Service

   Rather than*

    • Bingo
    • Church socials
    • Golf outings
    • Concerts

* except as occasional “bonding/fellowship” experiences or as means of Evangelism to attract to new people to draw them to Church and Christ

7. Church liturgical style is reverent worshipful; no rock bands/guitars. Most music early in the service soft, meditational, reverent. No harsh or overly loud music except occasional triumphal hymns when warranted.


The Verdict:

The Open Bible Lutheran Church, which is part of the conservative Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), appears to meet these criteria for me.  I consider that churches that fall short in some of these qualities are verging anywhere in the spectrum from slightly irreverent to morally corrupt and useless.  Churches that corporately give in to the norms of our culture and adopt the culture as part of its worship service (as contrasted with personal, individual relational evangelism that Jesus practiced) become, in essence, an anti-Christ institution.

That is my judgment.  So be it.



Art said...

“We reject any views that look to the church to guide and influence the state directly in the conduct of its affairs.”

Bah! Humbug! They're all concerned with their 501 protection so the world is falling down around them while they sing hymns, hold socials, and seek subscriptions for the building fund.

Gerardo Moochie said...

I'm rather cynical about that, too. This denomination also has a belief statement that reads "We reject any attempt on the part of the church to seek the financial assistance of the state in carrying out its saving purpose." I did not ask the question as to whether this includes rejecting the constraints of the of the "tax exempt status."

Art said...

I will also be cynical: I assume they have a policy on that. Don't ask, don't tell.

BTW, Gerardo, I only found your Muccings a short while back and generally agree with your positions. Also well written.

Gerardo Moochie said...

Well, I not only plan to ask, but I also have an expectation that sermons unabashedly promote the Christian view of governance (including personal respnsibility, Biblical morality, warning the congregation of the evils of Islam, and how homosexual practice destroys families and ultimately, civilizations, not to mention violation of God's word. At least I found a church leader and a denomination that proclaims faithfulness to Scripture and a "Church Militant" mentality.

I am looking forward to reporting back my experiences periodially over the next several weeks. Stay tuned.

Gerardo Moochie said...


Here is an excerpt I just read in a WELS magazine I picked up last Sunday. The magazine is an official publication of the denomination. The article I've excerpted was written by John Braun, Executive Editor of the magazine, so it carries the imprimatur of the Denomination.

The article is entitled: In These Troubled Times

He discusses how the news is so troubling about sexual immorality. That even the Supreme Court sides with the distortions of God's word, how "Christian concepts become antiquated and divisive."

He questions, "Where will all this lead? Will there come a time when our confession of God's truth will mean that our churches no longer enjoy tax-exempt status or that we can no longer claim our offerings as tax deductions? Will outr schools be forced to teach what we do not believe even if they receive no government funds?"

Later he quotes Scripture: The nations rage and the people plot in vain.

He says "The rulers of this world may even take a stand against the Lord. We may face difficult times ahead, as others have throughout history. But the Lord's truth about marriage, sexual morality, and the value and sanctity of life will remain even if the world around us thinks differently. The church will endure as it has throughout human history. God's people may endure suffering, persecution, and hardship."

This church leader's article leads me to believe this is a denomination of Christianity that 1) recognizes that there has been severe persecution for the faith throughout history, 2) They expect the same persecution to come against the faithful again, and 3) His denomination (WELS) intends to remain faithful, will accept and endure the loss of tax exempt status to remain faithful, and will be among the remnant who will suffer persecution.

I'm in!

Art said...

What do I think? I am just a grumpy old man, mired in the first half of the 20th century. What does it matter what I think?

Mr. Braun, is (as I suspect 99% of Christianity) very happy with the gag status of tax exemptions. So while his church defends marriage, sexual morality and the sanctity of life what will he say or write about those who defame those positions? What is he allowed, or rather not allowed, to say? What will he say about Islam or the coming attack on Syria?

Good luck with your new church - seriously.

Gerardo Moochie said...

Thanks for that website, Art.

The quote of D. James Kennedy on government favors to churches having the effect of “gagging” churches is so true. I’d call it a “bribe”; “hush money.”

I am/was a big fan of Kennedy. I went to Coral Ridge Presbyterian for a few years. In fact, he spoiled me in looking for a new church. He is one of the few who understood the evils of the self-imposed “wall of separation” that the 501 C 3 helps enforce.

Churches/pastors can do and say a lot more than they do without violating that law. Most are too readily intimidated into silence and their “inoffensive” preaching in a closet.

Just for the record, I’m a grumpy old man, too. And I’m still going to try to make an iota of difference in our churches. You have made a difference to me in your dialogue. Good website, that “Heal Our Land” site. I'm going to add it as a "favorite" on my list.

Gerardo Moochie said...

This is a post from Art who asked me to edit out some parts that he did not want posted. His comments are in quotes immediately below. My comments follow.

"I went to the link of the Open Bible Lutheran Church from your post.

"I started to listen to the audio sermon of 9/1 Paradise Found. About 4 minutes in the pastor, quoting from John 14:2-3, said this, "...If I go to prepare a place for you I will bring you to myself..."

"This of course twists scripture to fit his idea of Paradise and that heaven is where the dead go; ignoring, BTW, John 3:13. No translation that I checked renders John 14:3 this way. The verse is "...I will come again..." NOT "...I will bring you to myself..."

"Now here is the interesting part. When looking at the printed pdf file of this sermon the misquoted verse has been removed.

"One of my main objections to most Christian churches is that they do not believe the dead are asleep and so destroy the Blessed Hope of the Christian, Christ's return and the resurrection of the dead; Titus 2:13.

""Twisting" scripture to fit his beliefs is something you may want to check."

My comments: Art, you are definitely more sensitive to these "pastoral creative license/faux pas" issues than I. I don't have the Bible knowledge and doctrinal background that you obviously have.

I have taken the distinction between "asleep in Christ" and being immediately with him as a difference in perspective: The first perspective is God's where He demonstrates His awareness of earth time; that some amount of time passes from an individual's death to his being with God. The second perspective of being immediately with God upon death is from the perspective of the one who has died - there could be hours, years, or millenia that he was "asleep" but gains consciousness when He is with God. To him, being with God is IMMEDIATELY upon death.

I'm not sure if this addresses your point, or if I even grasp your point, but this is how I reconcile the time difference in different interpretations.

It would be interesting if the Pastor, who may read this blog, would comment, clarify, elaborate on your concerns.

Art said...

Ok, I understand and agree - somewhat.

You said, "The second perspective of being immediately with God upon death is from the perspective of the one who has died - there could be hours, years, or millennium that he was 'asleep" but gains consciousness when He is with God. To him, being with God is IMMEDIATELY upon death."

I agree with this but "being with Christ" occurs after His return. Paradise is the restored earth to Eden-like conditions, Rev. 2:7, ICor. 15:17-23 and many others.

The problem, as I see it (going to heaven), is that it diminishes the Blessed Hope, the return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, a Christ-centered Kingdom on a restored earth. If I'm alive with Christ in a heavenly paradise why look for His return?

There are other detrimental consequences which I will not mention but I can if you wish.

Given the choice of Islam's 70 virgins or the pastor's waving palm branches which should I choose? That's being rude...pardon me.

Gerardo Moochie said...

From Wikipedia:

"...there are reported to be approximately 41,000 Christian denominations,[2] many of which cannot be verified to be significant..."

The point of this quote is that every difference in interpretation of specific verses or doctrine seems to create a new denomination.

It is bad enough that the main, large denominations have liberalized to the point of being useless.

There is a point where I have decided that there are many details that I cannot know precisely, or the sequence of their occurring. I am at rest and at peace with not knowing those precise details. I do know the end result and that is what I am counting on.

Art said...

Fair enough!

My problem is that I am not "at rest and at peace" when I see Scripture twisted. Sure there's a lot I don't understand but some I believe I do.

41,000 denominations. Wow! That means 40,999 have it wrong - or many 41,000 do. ;)

Gerardo Moochie said...

I'll bet there are thousands of denominations of "one".