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.
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.