Overseeing the Moderate Church: Part 3

Divided churchThis brings us to teaching. Moderate churches generally have a very weak educational program, because the doctrines that divide the church are off limits. Either one side dominates the classes and the other side doesn’t listen, or else the tough topics are just never talked about in a serious way. Or else there’s one class that teaches one doctrine and another class that teaches another–but no one is ever required to question his pre-existing beliefs.

After all, serious consideration of the doctrines that divide the members would seem, well, divisive. It just seems so prudent to avoid such issues and talk about what the church agrees on. But avoiding the conflict is the surest road to division. Continue reading


Pacifism: In Answer to Tim’s and Guy’s Questions

pacifismAs usual, Tim has posed a number of thoughtful, challenging questions. I post my answers here because he’s pushed me to address some questions I was planning on getting to in future posts. I add my answer to Guy’s post on lobbying the government at the end because of the importance of the topic.

[PS — I’ve been very impressed with quality and spirit of nearly all the comments. This has been a much better discussion than I’d ever imagined. I’m being pushed to figure out stuff every day.]

Tim wrote,

I still believe that the defensive wars of the times of the judges had to do with the Promised Land.

The examples from the Old Testament were intended to be illustrative of what God created government — all government — to do. If government doesn’t defend us from invaders and protect us from criminals, it’s not performing its God-ordained task (Rom 13:1-7).

I can’t imagine that God meant for his children to allow non-Christians to risk their lives to defend Christians. It would seem very unfair for the Christians to let others do their dirty work for them. Continue reading

It’s Friday! Must be Time for a COMMERCIAL!!

And so, does honesty actually sell? What would happen if the church offered honest advertisements?

(Mat 10:34-39)  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law– 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Na – a – ah … Not a chance … We need to sell relationships and free use of the gym instead. Now that will change the world!!

Overseeing the Moderate Church: Part 2

Divided churchIn Part 1, we considered the difficulties of managing a moderate church, that is, a church that is divided between progressives and conservatives. While it’s not inevitable that such churches divide, they often do. The reason is almost always a failure of the leadership to confront the problem. Rather, most churches decide to delay the day of reckoning, piling political compromise on top of political compromise, until one day the church collapses. Continue reading

Pacifism: Police and Defensive War, Part 1

pacifismJohn Howard Yoder argues that Christian pacifism should reject service in the military but not the police. After all, until Jesus returns, it’s obvious that life would be pretty awful for everyone if there were no police. The difference between the police and the military, he argues, is that the police don’t have the taking of life as a goal and are subject to strict oversight, with their actions being under guidelines reviewable by the courts. And that’s not an entirely unfair distinction. But it’s not entirely accurate either.

First, let’s begin with a little political science history. Why do we have government at all? By and large, government began back when humans began to plant fields. The invention of agriculture led to stationary villages and farms – and abundant food and other goods that could be easily stolen.

When some kings (of cities) raided Sodom and Gomorrah to take their possessions, it was not a war of conquest but of greed. It’s easier to steal than to work. And Abraham raised an army to get the goods back. Continue reading

Overseeing the Moderate Church, Part 1

[This series from way back in March 2007, when there were maybe, oh, 30 readers, keeps getting attention because a lot of churches wrestle with these problems. I thought it might be helpful to re-run it, and I couldn’t help editing it just a tad.]

Divided churchSome churches are thoroughly progressive, with progressive elders, staff, and members–at least, most of them. Some churches are thoroughly conservative, with conservative elders, staff, and members–at least, most of them. But most are not. Most are something else. Let’s call them “moderate.”

Obviously, a moderate church has a serious, built in problem–its elders, staff, and members are theologically divided. Now, this is not an insurmountable problem, but it’s a big problem. It’s especially big because most churches have leadership that seeks to avoid confrontation, meaning that this serious problem will not be addressed. Rather, the usual Church of Christ style is to sweep the problem under the rug. Continue reading

Faith Lessons by Ray Vander Laan: Why Christians Suffer

The lesson begins in Cappadocia, in Turkey — a high, flat plateau that was very inaccessible due to having natural barriers all around.

There were only small villages with tribal chiefs, and it was never really under Roman control.

The area had two volcanoes that covered the area with ash, creating tufa — stone soft enough to allow homes, hideouts, and even churches to be carved into the mountains.

The area became a place of refuge, due to its inaccessibility. Persecuted Christians often hid there.

RVL takes the group to a press — a winepress or olive press. “Gethsemane” means olive press — where great a weight presses on the olives to produce the oil. Continue reading