The Church on Trial
Through this past year and where I find myself at present I have come into contact with much diverse opinion as to what the church of the Lord Jesus should look like. How it should behave and what revelation is “the” revelation of the day. Doctrinal issues in sincere believers have had an on-going impact within the church through generations bringing division and conflict, and so it is today. In many ways the church has put itself on trial.
I trust this document will stimulate a fresh understanding and outlook toward one another and the church of the Lord Jesus.
Mitigate: to make mild, soft, or tender; to make or become milder, less severe, less rigorous, or less painful; moderate. “Webster”
It seems that much of what we have known as church is now on trial in the minds and discussions of many sincere believers. Some are issuing warnings regarding false apostles, prophets and teachers—some of whom are genuine brothers who are simply in different places in their understanding.
Can true brothers believe and propagate falsehoods?
Can false brothers believe and propagate truths?
Are we to know people by their doctrine?
CHURCH VENUES ON TRIAL
Many are critically examining issues of traditional patterns, religious practices, and institutional constructs.
Others are defending what they’ve always known and understood to be within the will of God. They point to all of the good that is being accomplished in the name of the Lord.
Tragically, lifelong relationships are being trashed because of new insights and revelation on the part of some. Believers are at war with other believers over intellectual conclusions. This should not be so. God blesses the humble, the meek, and looks into our hearts. Realize that:
A good principle . . .
• held in an unhealed heart
• implemented with unclean hands
• propagated with crooked feet
• expressed beyond legitimate boundaries
. . . becomes a bad principle.
Paul held his higher learning at bay, realizing its limitations, submitting to the mind of Christ. His testimony will serve us well as we prepare our hearts for the forthcoming dialogues that are necessary for further ecclesial progress to be realized.
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. I Cor 2:1-5
Paul then acknowledges speaking wisdom among those who are mature. But, he qualifies doing so by pointing out: not the wisdom of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory. Verses 6-7a
Today many say they are compelled and have a responsibility to share their newest revelation with whomever, be it the weak or unlearned at the expense of relationship and ignoring consequence.
We release the love and wisdom of God through our own brokenness, weakness, fear and trembling. Doing so may qualify us to be useful in the work of reconciliation and reformation that will lead to revolution. We will fail if we begin with revolution. We must begin with reconciliation. God is not willing that any should perish! He is far more inclusive than many of today’s believers. The wisdom from above—provided for the asking in faith—blends our understanding of God with our understanding of people, and delivers us from our carnal pharisaic tendencies.
MINISTRY WORKERS ON TRIAL
“House Church.” “Simple church.” “Emerging Church.” Some brethren within these contemporary spheres are critical of brethren who are remaining, and labouring within more traditional and institutional settings. Put upon the defensive, both “groups” eagerly bring to light the weaknesses of the “others.” Bottom line: the religious spirit of denominationalism is alive and well on planet earth. And, principalities and powers of darkness continue to go unchallenged. Unfortunately, those who rush to judgment erroneously mark others as “false apostles, false prophets, and false teachers.” There are false ministries. But, we need to discern between the false ministries and those true brothers who still believe false doctrines.
If it were not for God’s gracious gift of repentance, I would be (and have been) considered a false minister.
As Paul wrote, Not that I have already attained, or am already perfect; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me. Philippians 3:12
James warns that teachers will receive a stricter judgment. James 3:1 An elder is to be publicly rebuked when two or three witnesses support an accusation. Timothy 5:19-20
These were not declarations of “open season” for all of us to shoot at one another! Context shows that the privilege and responsibility of bringing redemptive correction is inherent within New Covenant relationships and New Covenant church construct.
??We have too few New Covenant relationships and not enough New Covenant church construct.
These lacks seem to open the door for a significant variety of snipers.
??Who among us can in good conscience be critical of those who have gone before us? They all knew in part and prophesied in part. Yet, we respect the patriarchs—fathers in the faith—for who they were and the contributions they made (even present fathers who have ploughed the ground before us in this present season)—regardless of how incomplete their teaching was, or the mixture of fruit they produced.
??Today’s revelation should never be a rebuke or judgment upon yesterday’s genuine ministerial accomplishments. We should be able to make appropriate adjustments without second-guessing what we did or failed to do in the past. This is still the day of salvation, grace is still operational, and God is not finished with us yet!
??Two thousand years of cumulative error and building upon false foundations cannot be corrected in a moment, or by human judgments. If it were so, Luther’s contribution would have completely transformed the church to the original and ultimate intention of God.
??Those whom Paul named, and those whom he rebuked face-to-face, were people he personally knew. Scripture reveals Paul’s intentional effort to relate to Peter and the others long before the occasion when he corrected Peter. (He never functioned outside of relationships at this level)
??Accountability was built into first century church construct. There was only one church, served by one elder body, in any locality.
??Maverick Lone Rangers were easily identified and marked. Not so today.
??Christians who are organized under a variety of banners are responsible for many humanitarian efforts that bring honour to the name of Christ. God still loves the world!
??Many who identify with newer venues have yet to grasp and realistically respond to the challenges of our incarnational and mission mandates. Neither mandate will be fulfilled by only parts of the body!
??Building according to our own understanding and preferences misses the mark of our “one another” challenges.
??Inclusive dialogue in every locality is our high-priority agenda.
THE PASSION OF CHRIST IS FOR THE ONENESS AND FULNESS OF HIS BODY
Can you imagine Jesus when He was here in His original “earth suit,” and one member of His earthly body warring against another with railing accusations – for example, left arm and right leg slugging it out? If you are tracking with me, you might be thinking what I am thinking: “Impossible!”
Can we, by faith, translate that into our contemporary situation? We are His body on the earth, His present-day, twenty-first century “earth suit!” That’s right! Jesus is here in His “earth suit” today, just as eager to reveal the Father as He was prior to His physical death and burial. His 24/7 presence in His “earth suit” puts Him in many places all the time. His eternal objective is to reveal God’s glory throughout the earth.
To them (His saints) God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labour, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. Colossians 1:27-29
Jesus was at peace in His own skin, and desires to be at peace in His own skin on the earth today—His new wineskin, the body of Christ.
Jesus’ passionate prayer recorded in John 17 primarily focuses upon the unity of His body with the Godhead, and the corresponding revelation of the glory of God.
And the glory, which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one, just as We are one. John 17:22
And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:22-23
Grace is the way to glory! Faithfully exercising our God-given grace to see one another in the Spirit, will allow us to marvel at the glory of God in one another. This will allow us access into the mystery of grace and glory, and to begin manifesting what creation cries to see.
“JUST AS I AM, WITHOUT ONE PLEA!”
The rules do not change once we are in the game! The One who initiated our redemption and relationship with Father will bring it to completion. This is true for me, and it is also true for you! Therefore, any dialogue we enjoy is a gift and privilege from heaven, and carries with it some serious responsibilities.
??We are to love and honour one another.
??We are to respect the integrity of one another.
??We are to understand that we are on level ground.
??We are to remember that revelation comes by the Spirit.
??We are to realize that unity does not preclude diversity.
??We are to turn off the spigot when the flow stops.
We are not suggesting that our minds be put in neutral. It is amazing, though, how Scripture balances itself when approached prayerfully. Consider the context of these three verses:
Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved of God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings; for they will increase to more ungodliness. II Timothy 2:14-16
The proper ministration of the word of truth is not to digress (to go off on a tangent) into profane and idle babblings, or encompass strife. Our attitude or our manner of speech should never be cause of embarrassment to us, or others.