28 February, 2006

Being Right versus Being Involved - 2

Imagine you are meeting with a bunch of believers from your neighborhood. You have been meeting long enough to know each other pretty well, and you have shared some good times with the Lord together. You are beginning to trust each other just a little bit.

One of your new brothers, one of the more talkative ones, one that probably thinks he has something to say every time the doors open, starts talking about Calmilleniacostalism. Now, I don't know what that is, but you know that it's heresy, pure and simple. You listen to him for a minute to make sure, and then that odd, confused feeling starts in your head. You are responsible to call the heretic out, to protect the sheep, and guard the Name of the Lord.

What happens next?

In a steeple-church, this is easy. The pastor heard this guy's foray into Calmilleniacostalism, and he gently handles the whole situation. He has a denominational statement of faith to which everyone must conform, and in about 2 minutes he has the situation back in hand. In a Familyhood Church, though, there might actually be a couple of Calmilleniacostalismists, and they might just be deep believers in Christ. Is there a way that you, your pastor, and the Calmilleniacostalism faction can coexist?

The cat herder in me is going to warn you to buckle up, because it's gonna get a little rough here.

You are going to have to talk about this as a group.

Yep.

You are going to have to openly discuss the fact that you disagree with your brother about this point of doctrine, and you are going to have to hear him tell you that he disagrees right back. And then you are going to have to figure out whether you can live with each other. And the answer is going to have to be, "Yes," because you both claim Christ as your Life and Salvation. You were destined to love each other, and to become of one mind.

Phillipians 1:1-2 TNIV
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

It can be done.

If a lowly cat herder can make programmers and SCMers drink from the same well, you can make peace with a Calmilleniacostalist. It just takes a little help, maturity, and the Holy Spirit in copious doses.

There are numerous creeds and confessions, and we will need one. I favor the Nicene Creed. It is strong and light enough to form a bedrock without excluding anyone who knows the Lord and is teachable. What we do not need would be something along the lines of the Westminster Confession of Faith or The 25 Articles. There are entire denominations built around disagreements regarding their meanings. Nobody should have to be a theological scientist to subscribe to the body of Christ.

Starting from the Nicene Creed, what do we do about Calmilleniacostalism?

Our Familyhood Church will need a statement of faith, and it is going to have to say something about Calmilleniacostalism. We are going to figure out what to say about it together, and when we are done, it is going to be open to modification as we learn more about life, the Lord, and Calmilleniacostalism.

The important thing is that everyone is going to participate in writing this fine little document, and everyone is going to be able to challenge it.

I believe these things are necessary and profitable. If everyone is involved in solving these questions, everyone will grow.

From this point, I am going to "go practical." This is yet another first draft. It will be proven to be flawed, and it will be adjusted and improved until something workable comes out. That's just how life is.

---

Jim is our Calmilleniacostalist.
Bob is our anti-Calmilleniacostalist.
Fred is our pastor.

---

Bob asks everyone whether they have ever heard of Calmilleniacostalism before, and whether they think it is worth discussing in open forum. Everyone looks to Fred for an answer. Fred does the most important job of all for the pastor; he asks someone else for her opinion, and sits back to let the discussion happen. Fred almost certainly has heard of Calmilleniacostalism, and has a strong opinion, but if Fred puts his opinion on the table many people will feel compelled to agree with him. So, Fred doesn't do that. He facilitates a discussion. (Of course, if Fred immediately knows that Calmilleniacostalism abuses the Nicene Creed, then he explains how and the subject is dropped, but let's assume it doesn't or this exercise is pretty worthless.)

Jim also has an important part in this part of the process. He sits quietly, and listens to what everyone else thinks. None of this is personal, yet. If Jim fights every little remark, though, it will become personal. So he sits quietly, and waits on the discussion.

After a while, everyone has decided that this just might be a big deal, big enough to tinker with the statement of faith even. That's cool. That means the fun is going to start!

Jim and Bob were the two who cared about this, so they get the task of researching the subject of Calmilleniacostalism. Jim researches for it, and Bob against it. They go to the bother of studying the Westminster Confession of Faith, the 25 Articles, and lots of other big, well researched documents like that. They see what Christians have thought about this subject throughout the ages. They go to the scripture, and they go to prayer. They talk things over with a couple of brothers, and they talk it over with Fred. Eventually, they decide they are ready.

At a planned and appointed time, Jim and Bob present the fruits of their research in a Q&A meeting. Chances are everyone won't be there, but if everyone really agreed that this was important, there will actually be a goodly number of people there.

Jim and Bob have one major responsibility during this meeting. Don't be too long or too boring. The reason is that people will only listen to research for so long before they decide that this is all about someone's ego and tune out. Hit the high points. Move on. At this appointed time, Jim and Bob should question each other, and the audience should ask their questions. Everyone should leave with research handouts from both sides, notes, and a sense of purpose.

The odds are great that everyone is going to learn a little something about "the faith once delivered" through this process.

The next step is for everyone to gather a few days later to decide what to do about Calmilleniacostalism. After a week or so, everyone will get together again. One person will be selected to be the "recorder". The recorder will open the meeting with prayer, and the whole body should pray for wisdom and peace. When the meeting is ready to begin, Jim and Bob (who have already had their say in the Q&A meeting) will each make a brief statement, then the discussion will begin.

Everyone in attendance will tell how they think the church should modify the statement of faith. Each person will speak once, and will try to speak in Spirit and in Truth. Everyone not speaking will listen. Nobody will question what anyone says. Speak as long as you have to, but don't bore people and when you are done, you're done.

During all this, the recorder is responsible to take notes. He or she will have the last word. When everyone has spoken, the recorder will go ahead and give their thoughts.

At this moment of great suspense, let me interrupt the train of thought.

I don't know whether this sounds complicated or not. To me, it sounds about right. The subject is intense, and and it deserves a little time and effort.

  • Is this even worth wasting our time on? If not, then the process stops here. This will be the most common case, I'm sure.
  • If it is deemed important, then the people who care most about it research it, and bring their research back to everyone.
  • Everyone goes away and spends time in their own research and prayer on the subject. Some research more, and some less, but everyone has time to look at the subject for themselves.
  • Everyone comes back together and shares their thoughts.

The people who love to research, get to research. Everyone gets to know something more about the faith. Everyone gets to see the wheels in action. Nothing is done behind closed doors, so everyone knows that the decision made is partially their own, even when the decision doesn't go their way. Everyone was heard.

OK. Back to our meeting in progress....

The recorder now earns his or her keep. He is responsible to give what Quakers call, "the sense of the meeting." He simply makes a decision based upon everything the body said. Whatever he says should correspond to the majority view, but he will speak what he believes the Spirit is leading the church to decide.

He or she announces what the church will put into action.

At this point, those assembled in the room decide whether they agree with the recorder. If almost everyone agrees, then that is the decision of the church. If there is not a clear consensus, then there will be no decision that day. Maybe more research is needed. Maybe more prayer, and maybe fasting. The recorder may even announce that there simply is no "sense of the meeting", and that the process should start over again. At that point, everyone would have to decide all over again whether this was even worth the effort. Maybe after a couple weeks of discussing the subject, everyone just decided that it was not that important.

Usually, though, I believe there will be a decision. And whatever decision is made, it will be owned by everyone who participated in it. Will it be right? I believe it will be, most of the time. I also know that it will not be right all of the time. That's OK with me. I would rather that the church owned her statement of faith and it have some weaknesses than be handed a flawless one.

One last thing.

Keep the notes! Keep every version of the statement of faith, and the meeting minutes of every discussion that changed it. Write down people's names. Who said what? Some day it will be really cool for someone to go back through and learn, not "what we believe," but why we believe it and how we got there.

19 comments:

Danny Kaye said...

Well written, Codepoke.

As you know, I belong to the Church of Christ. And as you probably know, we believe in baptism for the forgiveness of sins. But there are many other groups which believe that you need to pray Jesus into your heart for salvation.(I am not going to turn this into a doctrinal debate.)

But let's just say that me and friend are studying the Bible with a non-Christian (NC). This NC wants to know how to be saved/born again/redeemed...etc.

If I believe that it is at the point of baptism we are saved, then that is what I will teach.

If my friend believes that all you have to do is pray Jesus into your heart, then that is what he will teach.

How will the NC know for sure when his teachers don't even agree on such a fundy issue as "how to get saved"?

I can see that there are disputable matters in abundance. Those could be handled in the manner you suggest, although I think we risk making the Church a democracy. That's a dangerous line to get near.

But for me, I need to be unified on basic doctrinal issues like:
The Bible = God's Word.
Jesus is Lord.
Baptism for salvation.
...etc.

The other stuff, (ie: Calmillenstickerpotsism) is important. But I have determined that, after years of falling into "Foolish and stupid" arguments, if it is not a matter of salvation, I can agree to disagree.

MIlly said...

Let's just say being a Church Of Christ woman might pay off here. (It's a joke cause for a long time we weren't to speak in church)

My house was devided for several years on the way we worshiped when my children were Baptized I sat alone in the pews. The priest was very nice about it. Yep I married a Catholic Yankee.

Middle ground is where you have to be at times. That comes with compromise. Are you willing to do that? I wasn't most of the time. My unfed in the church husband in now a member of the church his wife and children attend. He is doing a study on being Baptized.

I would be careful that your not to give on what you believe.

I have wondered how great the Table in Heaven will be. No lines in the sand, just love.

codepoke said...

Thanks for the comments, Danny.

I think we risk making the Church a democracy. That's a dangerous line to get near.


That is the heart of the matter. I have one more post on the subject, but not enough time to write it tonight. The nutshell version is that the church should look more like a family than either a democracy or the Chrysler corp.

I understand your point is that baptism is not a peripheral matter, but truly causal to salvation. It is not up for discussion. It is, however, precisely that kind of point that this whole idea is built to handle. Every Christian believes that his or her key point is central, and not up for discussion.

If on other points, you are able to "agree to disagree", what can you do with a point like this? Do you believe that Presbyterians don't know the Lord in a saving way?

codepoke said...

Milly,

I may not understand your comment.

I would be careful that your not to give on what you believe.

I have wondered how great the Table in Heaven will be. No lines in the sand, just love.


Those two statements seem to say the opposite? Don't compromise, but in heaven there will be just love.

Do you think the lines will be erased in heaven more because we finally all know perfect truth, or more because we all love perfectly? I definitely think love erases lines, not knowledge. Knowledge is good, but it passes way. Love never fails.

Danny Kaye said...

Do you believe that Presbyterians don't know the Lord in a saving way?

I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was coming...;)

Again, not wanting to turn this into a doctrinal debate, I will simply say this:

To be honest, I don't know what Prebyterians believe as a group.
All I know is what the scriptures teach about salvation. I don't personally care what the name of the church a person attends is. It is not your church that will stand before God on J-Day; it is the individual. And if that individual has followed the biblical plan for salvation---AMEN!

But as to the broader question you asked...
The only thing I can do is to accept that we can be unified in our disunity.

In the book of Acts, there were a coupla instances when the unity of some of the brotherhood was threatened.
One was when Paul and Barney disputed about John-Mark.
Another is when the Jews wanted the gentiles to be...well...you know, the "C" word...((('''SHUDDER''')))

Both times, unity was kept.

One was a doctrinal issue. The leadership stepped in and made the call. And everyone jumped on board.

The other was a disputatable matter. The brothers simply gave each other a hug and grabbed a different fellow to go with them.

As I said before; I can be unified with a brother even if we disagree.

But salvation is just nothing to trifle with. I must be unified on those issues in order to seek and save the lost effectively together.

Patchouli said...

Codepoke, you already pointed out that you are in a different situation than a "steeple-church," which I thought was the whole point.

And, danny kaye, why is someone who doesn't believe in salvation-by-baptism teaching in the COC?
I know these I just examples, but think about it.

Danny Kaye said...

Patchuoli,

I re-read my comments trying to find out when I said that but I can't find it.

Can you let me know where you read that?

I can only speak for the ones I know about, but of those, salvation by baptism is preached.

Sorry if I mis-spoke somewhere.

Patchouli said...

danny kaye, in your first comment, you said you belong to the COC. You then described yourselves as teachers to the NC. I put these two togther and came up with two teachers in the Church of Christ.

I was going to say I agree with your conclusion--if it is not a matter of salvation, I can agree to disagree-- but that's not always true for me. I cannot stand in unity with someone who agrees with me on salvation, but believes that God doesn't save non-white people. (Yes, I know someone who believes this!)Love and unity are two different things.

You did not mis-speak, dk, I drew conclusions. And I couldn't agree more--salvation is nothing to trifle with.

Rich said...

codepoke,

Danny Kaye makes a good point on people believing in basic doctrinal issues.

Personally, if I had to boil it down, I'd say believing in Christ Jesus as Lord is the only essential. Not praying him into your heart. Not being baptised for forgiveness of sins.

Again, on a personal note, I could certainly worship with people who believe otherwise. But I think a lot of inner strife is going to develop when decisions start being made.

I'm not going to take this to a battle of doctrines, either. But when the critical decisions are made, and you've got fingerpointing going on to "who's in Christ" and "who's out of Christ" and who gets to actually make the decision -- only Christians, right? -- because either they've been baptised in the Holy Spirit, or they been baptised for the forgiveness of sin, or they made a declaration/profession of faith by "praying Jesus into their heart", etc. you've got some fundamental problems at the most basic of levels.

Certainly, I'll worship worship with those who speak in tongues, those who believe in baptisim for salvation, and those who have merely "asked Jesus into their heart" because for me it's more about Christ and Him being glorified than it is about my personal salvation. Tons more, in fact. But I've got the feeling not many people feel the same way.

Sorry if I sound prideful. I probably am to an extent, and to whatever extent, that's wrong. But I do think it's about Christ and not about salvation (not that both aren't important and go hand-in-hand, but Christ first).

Danny Kaye said...

Patchuoli,
Ok...now I see it. You're right. I didn't use much of a transition statement there, did I?

I think you got what I was saying now, right? But just in case:

When I began the second Paragraph, I went right into Codepoke's theory. Therefore the friend and I would belong to the same church, but believe differently about salvation. The "freind" is strictly hypothetical.

It's a bummer about the people you know who think white supremacy is a Christian principle. I am in the Northeast and, though there is some tension here, I haven't known anyone who thinks white folks are the only ones who can be saved. Thankfully, that is foreign to me. I don't know if I could be godly when dealing with someone like that. (I would like to think I would handle it just like Jesus...But I know me.)

Milly said...

Codepoke,

Do you think the lines will be erased in heaven more because we finally all know perfect truth, or more because we all love perfectly?

Yes!!!!!! Well said. Pass the jello salad.

I honestly think at times God shakes his head at us for putting our ideas into worship instead of what He wants. I have always been open to other ways of worship, COC is what I agree with more than any other church that I have attended. You have to be home. I see that others might not agree with the COC.

codepoke said...

What a cool discussion. Thanks, all!

Danny Kaye,

Do you believe that Presbyterians don't know the Lord in a saving way?

Sorry. Touched a nerve there. That sentence was only supposed to clarify the question above it, which was:

If on other points, you are able to "agree to disagree", what can you do with a point like this?

Can you agree to disagree with someone who disagrees with you on this matter? I can, but I was not sure whether you can. Asking the "clarifying" question was a faux-pas. I don't want to get rabbit trailed into the baptism question any more than you do.

codepoke said...

Patchouli,

Codepoke, you already pointed out that you are in a different situation than a "steeple-church," which I thought was the whole point.

Well, I spent 10 years in a home church, and hope to be in something non-steeply some time in the future. Right now, I am supporting a steeple, and thankful for the chance. :-)

I wrote this post as if such a church existed, so yes, that would be the point. If everyone in my neighborhood were fellowshipping, and a saint from the Church of Christ were to want to join, we would have the opportunity to go down this road for real. It is a minefield, but I believe Love can wend its way through.

I honestly believe that division between brothers and sisters at the neighborhood level is a defeat of the kingdom of God at numerous levels.

codepoke said...

Rich,

I could certainly worship with people who believe otherwise. But I think a lot of inner strife is going to develop when decisions start being made.


Bingo!

Yes, I am trying to anticipate that strife, and propose a way that believers might be able to handle it maturely. We need a safe way to be able to disagree with each other without breaking unity. The disagreements are real, but at a neighbor-level, a face-to-face level, we should be able to embrace them in Christ.

codepoke said...

Milly,

COC is what I agree with more than any other church that I have attended.

That is the heart of the matter. I think that given the landscape of Christianity as it is, you have probably made a great choice. I just believe that we could have a better landscape.

The church I agree with more than any other is one made up of the believers nearest to me. I believe that the church is about so very much more than beliefs and doctrines. The church is about practically loving the world around us, and my world is within walking distance. The people nearest me need the love of God, and only the church can deliver that.

If I am united with the 100 or so believers in my little neighborhood, then we can live that out.

I don't believe we need to wait for the heavenly jello salad to experience real unity, and for the lines to be erased between us. We can do this now. The gates of hell cannot prevail against the kingdom the Lord has placed on earth. We need to start attacking them though!

Milly said...

:-) I'd Love to join ya'll at the park some day on earth. I'll bring the pea salad (no one really eats that stuff do they?) We can fellowship. (can ya tell I looking forward to spring?) :-)

Danny Kaye said...

Yeah, of course I can agree to disagree with someone regarding baptism.

For the first 15 of the 18 years that I have been a Christian the teaching was a little "off". We were taught that not only is the COC the true church, but only our version of the COC was truly chosen by God. This was obviously not true, but when one is young, ignorant, and gullible, it is easy to believe that what is being said is true just because of the passion with which it is said.
(And I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.)

Over the last several years I had struggled personally with my walk with God. But after snapping out of it toward the end of last year I have come to see things in a much clearer light.

I found that I didn't know everthing, after all. (who knew?) I found that there are other people who love God more than I do...and they are not even part of the COC!!!

I have found that I need desparately to drop the mindset that if someone doesn't agree with me about baptism, that means that they must not know the rest of the Bible, either.

I am being serious here. These are things I was taught to believe. And so I did.

I am more in love with God now than I have ever been before. And because of that love for Him I am able to see others' love for Him as well, and be encouraged by them.

As a matter of fact, I have been so encouraged by you all, that I am starting to put my own Bible study on my own blog...something I was not too keen on doing for personal reasons. (that's a shameless plug, by the way...heh-heh)

This was not supposed to be this long of a comment. But let me shut up by saying:
Though I will surely not comprimise the baptism for salvation stance, I will certainly try to see someone else's point of view and insights before discarding them because of their stance on baptism.

Milly said...

Danny Kaye,
The church that I attend is a bit different we have a rep. of being different. I have family who believe we are so wrong. I undrestand the COC's teaching about how we are the only ones going. I feel blessed that God has led me to this wonderful place in Tulsa. Wish you are your family were coming to the ISWW.

codepoke said...

Danny,

Truly beautiful comment. Praise the Lord.

(And I read your Acts 1&2 lesson yesterday. I am jealous of your natural flow, and enjoyed your insights.)