What’s a “Disputable Matter”?


(Rom. 14:1) Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.

Whenever we in the Churches of Christ discuss the scope of grace, Romans 14 inevitably comes up. One side argues that certain doctrinal issues are disputable matters (KJV: “doubtful disputations”) and hence covered by grace. The other side says only matters of indifference are disputable matters, that is, only questions that God does not answer in the pages of the Bible.

While there are many other passages that bear on the question, Romans 14 seems to be pointed specifically at that question. And so–is a disputable matter only such questions as what color to paint the foyer? or does disputable matters include such questions as instrumental music? Continue reading


Missional Christianity: Leadership Issues

Jesus healingI can hardly pretend to be an expert on how to lead a church into missional Christianity. My own congregation is in a transitional stage. This shouldn’t be surprising–very few churches have gotten past the transitional stage. The idea is still very new, and we’re all still feeling our way along. In 10 or 20 years, things will be dramatically different, but no one but God knows how.

You see, missional Christianity isn’t about picking up a how-to book and applying a proven formula to your congregation. Rather, it’s a journey into the unknown, guided by the Holy Spirit and the example of Christ. Continue reading

Missional Christianity: How We Think of Benevolence

Jesus healingCompare the approach to benevolence we find in the scriptures to the some of the attitudes that have prevailed for so long.

Tokenism.  Many churches have a benevolence budget of $500 and then just for the occasional beggar who comes to the door asking for a free lunch. It’s really just barely enough to salve our consciences–hardly enough to actually change the world!

Check the box.  Similarly, we sometimes think we get to heaven by being scripturally organized. One requirement is to have a benevolence program, and so we have one. But just a little one. After all, big or small, we still get to check the box and say we’re organized correctly! Continue reading

Missional Christianity: What the Bible Says

Jesus healingWell, this is just a little of what the Bible says–because the Bible says a lot about being missional. Here are some high points.

Matthew’s Gospel starts the ministry of Jesus with the Sermon on the Mount. After the Beatitudes,  Jesus teaches,

(Matt. 5:13-16)  “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

This is Jesus’ first lesson on evangelism. What will cause people to praise God? Our good deeds. And we are to do them in a way that brings glory to Jesus, causing our light to shine before men, like a city on a hill. The church should be a community that does such good things that people from great distances can see the good works and be drawn to them. Continue reading

Missional Christianity: The Enlightenment

Jesus healingThe modern world of science and technology is the product of a philosophy known as the Enlightenment. Enlightenment philosophy makes reason all important, and thus bans superstition and tradition. Nothing is true unless it stands up to the ultimate test of truth: human reason.

And this attitude led to the scientific method, science, and the computer I’m typing on. The successes of Enlightenment thought are immeasurably great. All of us who have lived a life free of polio and small pox can thank the Enlightenment philosophers for starting all that.

Not surprisingly, Enlightenment thought has found its way into Christianity, sometimes for good, sometimes for not so good. Continue reading

Missional Christianity: The Church Growth Movement

Jesus healingWe now live in the age of the mega-church, with many congregations of over 10,000 members and some with campuses in several cities. This shouldn’t be too surprising– the same thing is happening in the American retail industry. Americans love huge stores and huge churches.

You see, the churches have been to business school and have learned powerful and effective marketing skills. Some of this is good, because we are least trying to attract the lost. But there’s a dark side as well, which is that we try to package and market Jesus like Nikes or Big Macs. To do this, we customize the message to the market. Continue reading

Missional Christianity: The Moral Majority

Jesus healingIn response to the failure of government to teach our children to pray and to teach the poor to be industrious and chaste, many Christians tried to purify the government. In the 1980’s, Jerry Falwell famously founded the Moral Majority as a political movement, and was successful in helping elect Ronald Reagan president.

Later on, the Christian Coalition was successful in electing George W. Bush as president, providing the key votes and volunteers to win two extraordinarily close elections. Conservative Christians have become a genuine political force.

However, the victory proved less than thrilling. Continue reading