Update: In my discussion on this post I realized that I mislinked two of my own blog posts in the original post. I have fixed those links. Sorry if they caused anyone a headache.
Let me start with a disclaimer. I love my church. I love the people in my church. Of all the churches I have been in, this is one of my all time favorites. We aren’t perfect, but we are a family.
I started reading a post over at Jesus Shaped Spirituality today about the church. I think it was through a link and a link again or two in the comments that led me to a blog by a professor at Southeastern. From there I found my way to a discussion about a book that George Barna has released along with Frank Viola called Pagan Christianity?. Those who have been reading here for very long, or those who know me or have talked to me can understand why I felt the need to dig a little deeper on this one. My studies into the Hebraic roots movement and teaching have led to some questions about some of church practices, and I know Barna’s reputation. I don’t always agree with everything that he has said or done, but he has provided many valuable insights with his surveys in the past. I confess to knowing absolutely nothing about Frank Viola before today, but in my perusal of his site, the interview that is linked above and the chapter or two of the book that I read online, I appreciate his spirit and attitude.
How many of us ask this question at the top of this post? How often do we stop to wonder why we do what we do? As a pastor of a Southern Baptist church in a far flung area of North Dakota, I have often found myself looking at the big debates and discussions of my own denomination at large to be somewhat superfluous. I read some of the blogs of folks who are “movers and shakers” in the convention structure. I read the lengthy discussions over at the Founder’s Blog about the need for accountability in church membership and the doctrinal discussions about people who aren’t strong enough Calvinists, and I have to ask myself what we are doing as a denomination. Let me take on the idea of the regenerate membership discussion for a moment.
The heart of the issue is that the churches of the SBC claim over 16,000,000 members, but can only account for about 6,000,000 people on any given Sunday. While I can appreciate what they are seeking to do, there are some other questions that should be asked. Are we as a denomination guilty of just “making converts” as opposed to making disciples? Should we examine some of what we do in light of Matthew 23:15 – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”? Are some of those 10,000,000 unaccounted for people part of what Christ was describing here? False converts who now have a false sense of security because we got them to pray a prayer and walk an aisle and be baptized. I am not trying to be accusatory here; I am in fact a lifelong SBC guy. I was raised in an SBC church in the south and traveled north as an SBC Mission Service Corp Missionary. At this point there may be some well-meaning SBC folks who would love to find out who I am and give me some correction. Finding out where I am shouldn’t be a problem, since I don’t attempt to hide it from anyone who can read and I am more than willing to accept constructive criticism. If I am in error, please feel free to point it out. I do think that it is time we ask ourselves the tough questions about our personal walk with Christ and about our corporate relationship in our churches.
When I realized that we as Baptists had been more than willing to accept and pretty much parrot what the Roman Catholic Church teaches about the “Lord’s Day” without asking what those passages really mean, I found I had a lot more questions to ask. I have not elected to take my church down the road of moving our worship service to Sabbath(that would be the day before Sunday by the way) or anything like that. Frankly the Bible is plain that the early church met all the time, not just on Sunday, so I am not hung up on a specific day for worship. Actually, the Bible leaves us with a lot of room on a lot of things, if we are interested to find out. I am not claiming to be perfect or to know everything. In fact, I am claiming just the opposite. A lot of things I assumed I knew before have been burned up in the fire from God’s Word. And I am pretty sure He isn’t done with me yet.
So, back to the original question. What is the Church supposed to be like? I don’t have all the answers yet. In some ways, I am just learning to ask the right questions. In the meantime, I am happy to meet with the church family here that God has blessed us with let Mercy lead.