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    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    My Thoughts on the Future Church

    I am both worried and excited about the future of the Church as a whole. In this post, I will share my reasons for why I'm worried.  In the 2nd post, I will give my reasons for why I'm excited and in the 3rd and final post I will give my own thoughts and opinions as to what the future of the church may look like.

    Why I'm Worried

    I'm worried for several reasons on several different levels. First, let me say that I've been trying to go deep into the Emergent ideals to see what they are really holding fast and true to and what they are deciding to drop as it pertains to the church.

    They are asking the right questions, but in my young opinion, they are hitting a lot of the wrong conclusions. The Gospel should be contextualized, yes but not to the degree that we start choosing which Biblical ideals (otherwise known as Doctrines) should go due to them not easliy being contextualized. What I mean is that we should not shrink away from tough theological issues because they are difficult to contextualize. This mode of thinking makes one choose what in the Bible they want to follow and that which they don't.

    In essence this mode of thinking does to the Bible the very same thing Benjamin Franklin did to his Bible and that is cut out all the parts that were offensive to him...literally. He ended up with a totally new Bible...one of his own making.

    We are not God and in stripping the Bible of it's "harder to contextualize" portions by skirting them or shrinking away from them we are taking the position of God and deciding what God did or did not say (even though it's been written down for centuries).

    That idea worries me.

    Again, this section of the church is asking the RIGHT questions, but in my young opinion are coming up with some wrong conclusions.

    I am also worried about the fear of exclusion that creeps into the ideals in the Emergent Village. Jesus says these words: "I am the way, the truth and the life and NO ONE comes to the Father but by ME" (John 14:6). Many in the Emergent Village are fearful to say "this person is in, this person is out" when it comes to Christianity. The reality we've been left by Jesus is that there are sinners and there are those redeemed graciously by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus (those who are Saved). It is an either or issue. Jesus didn't say if they have God in their hearts and worship Allah, all things are easy cheezy peezy and they are "in". He said He is the only way.

    I'm not trying to get "fundamental" because although I have some fundamental doctrinal grounding, I am not what would be labeled "A Fundamentalist".

    I am simply saying that there are closed fisted Doctrines (those that can't be open for debate because Scripture says this is the way it is for example: The Trinity) and Open handed doctrines (those that aren't so solid in the Bible like predestination or free will).

    Many Pastors who are in the public eye have diverted from the Emergent Village and have become either "Emerging or Missional". Emerging was all encompassing at one point, then Emergent and Emerging split. Now, most Emerging pastors desire to be called "Missional" so they can even further separate from the "Emergent" name.

    If I had to label myself, I would label myself an Emerging/Missional. But enough about that.

    Let me re-say this, because it needs to be said: The Emergent section is asking great questions, just coming to some wrong conclusions. They also have some good conclusions on a bit of ideas, which I will get to later.

    I am well aware that what I am saying has already been said. The worries I worry about have already seen much air-time and much debate. I am under no delusion that I am saying radically new thoughts that have never been said before because I have read and heard a great many of the same worries I have. I am simply setting the stage for my third post: Where I feel the future of the church is going. Even there, I will not be under the delusion of new thoughts.

    My desire is to see the church be something that is both beloved and reviled. I desire the church to be loved by God and reviled by Satan...with many of the conclusions made by the one segment of the church (namely the Emergent section) I'm not sure the future of the church would fit this desire.

    Another thing that worries me is the importance and definition of preaching that is now coming out of some circles.

    When it comes to the new idea of preaching, it is a community preaching to one another, rather than one speaker preaching to the church. I think that for sure we all need to learn from each other, but this approach every week leaves so much room for wolves to enter to flock and rip them apart. One preacher who has been approved by the church, the elders, the board (and if he's in a denomination, by them as well) has gone through rigorous testing, much training and has proven to be a good lead pastor.

    Without this process, any Joe smoe off the street can come in and add to the "sermon conversation". That worries me, because as a Pastor, I am largely responsible for the flock I lead...if I have a "sermon conversation" each week, I am not protecting my flock. God in His word calls me to such a high standard.

    Also, preaching is not a job many desire because those who teach will be judged more harshly (James 3:1). Preaching is a high honor, and must be done by an elder of the church (1 Timothy 5:17). If we allow anyone in the congregation to preach in the conversation, we are not following the Biblical model of church, because we have no idea if they are fit to be an elder (1 Timothy 3) much less fit to add some meat to the sermon.

    We shouldn't let just anyone run a Church, agreed? So why would we let just anyone teach the church? (Which is the most influential place of leading).

    My last main worry is that of the place of Scripture. If we hold to a model that has been proposed by some, the Bible will essential be an "additional book" to the church Library rather than the source of our Faith.

    I am all about the Spirit's leading and following the Spirit in ministry and seeking His guidance but we must make checks on what we feel is "His Leading". If it doesn't line up with Scripture, it wouldn't be from God. Yet some are saying that they will look at the Bible, but will mainly "Let the Spirit lead them".

    How will they be able to check if what they are being "led" to do is right or wrong without checking the Bible or not? If God is saying to do such and such in our gut and in the Bible it says "such and such is a sin" why would God contradict himself?

    The Bible was written By God for us! I'm not talking about the "regulative principle" per se, but our perceived leading of the Holy Spirit should indeed be regulated by what Scripture says about certain things.

    For example, one hot button topic which is getting much air-time and has been sadly for several years is that of homosexuality. The Bible clearly says that this is a form of sexual sin, on par with looking at porn, lusting after another’s wife, adultery and bestiality...all of which are forms of sexual sin.

    YET, some sections of the Christian faith are claiming it is simply an "alternative lifestyle" and you are not sinning if you are homosexual.

    This is an idea that they felt "led to" yet the Bible says opposite to what they are saying. I'm not advocating that "God Hates Gays", in fact that also is a sin, because it is clear, in your face hate and hate is the antithesis of Christ's agenda (unless it's hating sin...not the person).

    The Bible is not God, but it is the Word of God: "Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

    We've been created by God to do good works (Ephesians 2:10) and the Word of God brings us along that path (2 Timothy 3:17).

    I do have several other minor worries, but these are my main worries. As a young Pastor, I will see the future church one day and I hope we can get rid of these worries so that we can fulfill the mission we've been called to on this earth: namely to make disciples of all nations!

    The next post will be what I'm EXCITED about for the future church, because there are a GREAT number of things to rejoice in!