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Churchianity: The Problems Within

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 9:41 PM

As a reasonably active member in my own church, I have encountered hypocrisy, those who condemn unfairly, legalism, and all the rest. Then again, for what it is worth, I see all of that stuff in secular environments too. Sadly, it seems the place that should be a safe haven dedicated to worshipping God has instead often times become a battleground.

At least in my experience, the church generally has many of the same problems as the rest of the world, because, as Paul notes, we are not perfect yet. The church is full of sinners, as those without sin do not need the church (of course, “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, KJV)). I believe C.S. Lewis talked about this in Mere Christianity, although I'm not positive that is what I'm thinking about right now.

I think the thing that makes it hurt so much when things go wrong in the church is that these are suppose to be our brothers and sisters, not just the crabby bank teller or the nasty neighbor that always uses his leaf blower to put his leaves in our yard. Shouldn't those in the church be better behaved than those outside of it?

Yeah, they should. Unfortunately, it just isn't so. I've been on both ends of the problem. At times (okay, many times), my pride has caused me to push my agenda inside the church almost like a politician would in congress. It's silly — I shouldn't take so much ownership in something like that, I should simply aim to spread the Gospel. But I don't far to often, no matter how much I want to.

Likewise, I've been on the other side. Not all that long ago, a prominent person in my church (I won't name who, for the obvious reasons) attempted to use his power to push me off the committee I'm on, for one reason or another. While I didn't realize it until afterwards, it seems various small clashes had turned a friend of mine into someone with a goal to get me. As the saying goes, it isn't being paranoid if they really are out to get you.

Relatively speaking, my recently clash is barely anything compared to what many face inside the church. Still, it hurt. It hurt that I almost lost the ability to do what I feel God has lead me to do in the church. It hurt that a friend of mine, whom I had actually helped to get acquainted to the said committee when he joined, now was going after me. It hurt when a few close friends in the church didn't believe me when I asked for advice as to what to do.

But, it worked out. It doesn't always, obviously, but in my case it did. I am now working even more closely with the said person, and we've learned to get along again. To the extent that it is possible in the flesh, we have forgiven each other.

Then there is the legalism. Not only “Biblical” legalism (on stuff like taking a day of rest, tithing, etc.), but also legalism on all kinds of other things. People get mad that the carpet, which has been red since they were yay-tall, might be switched to green carpet. Oh, how terrible. Surely there is a law against changing carpet colors! Dogma forms easily. And there is the gossip. One day a family friend in the church talked to me for thirty minutes about all the terrible stuff the pastors were supposedly doing. Even if it was true, that only shows the pastors are human — certainly I've done many things I'm not particularly proud of.

This stuff isn't new either. If we consider the apostle Paul, most of his letters were written, at least in part, to put out major conflicts in the church. Even prior to that, Jesus Himself provided a plan to resolve conflict and sin in the church. Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV) says:
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. {16} But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' {17} If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

So what do we make of all of this? I think, as I said in the beginning of this piece, that it is simply the effect of taking lots of sinners, that is humans, and making them try to work and interact perfectly. It works for a while, and then the other shoe drops. We only fool ourselves to think the church is, or can be, a perfect place. Considering the importance people place on serving God, and the close proximity at which we work with each other in the Church, it is no wonder tempers often flare. We want what's best for spreading the Gospel (most of the time), and as such, if we think our way is right, we get upset when the other person won't follow along.

Still, it is my opinion that the church, the local church, is critically important, at least for me. All of its failings considered, I still feel strengthened in faith by frequent meetings with brothers and sisters in Christ. It's like a support group — it may be the “almost blind” leading the “almost blind” (to take liberties with Matthew 15:14), but hopefully through our foibles we can keep each other constantly trying to work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12) towards the time when we will no longer be sinful. I may disagree with them, and we may even backstab each other occasionally, but that's just part of the condition known as “being human.” I can only imagine how much worse off I would be without them.

Really, isn't this just like a family? How many families argue, disagree, split, and so forth, often over relatively unimportant things? Every single one I can think of. I'm not saying that's ideal; it's not ideal so long as we burn people out of the Church, or worse, Christianity as a whole. It's not ideal so long as the divide between Christianity and dogma is often so wide that the term “Churchianity” has any relevance. But, the church does at least give us a glimpse at the future hope, the “blessed hope,” of Jesus' second advent.

The Church is imperfect, sinful, and way too human. But, if we admit that, it makes reaching the world much easier. It should, hopefully, make us more humble as we step off our righteous pedestal and become the light in the world and not try to be the light above it. We're not perfect, we just are made so in the eyes of God by the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Knowing You

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 9:41 PM

Now my heart's desire is to know You more,
To be found in You and know as Yours,
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All surpassing gift of righteousness

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best,
You're my joy, my righteousness,
And I love You Lord.

Oh to know the power of Your risen life,
And to know You in Your sufferings;
To become like You in Your death, my Lord,
So with You to live and never die

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best,
You're my joy, my righteousness,
And I love You Lord.

—Graham Kendrick, Knowing You

Events at St. Paul's!

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:40 AM
  • Christmas Eve Cantata: Our Choir and Orchestra will be pulling out all of the stops, and we will have a candle light time too. Communion will be served and guests will get a neat Max Lucado book as a gift. Take a look at the link for more information.
  • Steve Saint at St. Pauls: Steve Saint, son of martyred missionary Nate Saint, will be at St. Paul's during our normal worship services and Bible Fellowship times. I saw Mr. Saint when he spoke at the Steven Curtis Chapman concert here back in September, and I am really really excited to get to hear him again. If you can make it - please do, it is well worth it. Click here to read my rough summary of what he talked about at SCC's concert.

    His father's story is known best to folks through the book Through the Gates of Splendor. A new docu-movie called Beyond the Gates of Splendor is also coming out, and they have some nice stuff on their site as well (including a very nice long introduction “trailer” and Steven Curtis Chapman's God is God music video). Both of those video items are under the “Video Trailer” option on the site's main menu. God is God is a really powerful music video that correlates with Mr. Saint and Beyond the Gates of Splendor… take a moment to watch it.

    Anyway, for more details on the Steve Saint event click the title for this event - that should take you to a page with the press release about the event and a link to a flyer in PDF format. I hope anyone reading this can make it!

Denominational Query

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 11:55 PM

#1: Methodist/Weslyian Church

This is surprising. As a moderate Calvinist, I expected to be closest to the PCA (since my own denomination, the Evangelical Free Church, isn't included in most lists). I guess my moderation - that is, I'm not strongly predestinationist - outweighs my staunch support for the preservation of the saints. Generally, I strongly agree with Calvin, but I waiver on suggesting God has picked who will be condemned. I do believe in irresistible grace though, so I'm kind of inbetween. I guess I feel that there is some free will in our choice concerning receiving Jesus, but God already knows who wouldn't be able to resist His grace versus those who are too closed to receive it. Moreover, I believe that God could use irrestible grace to make anyone believe in Him (afterall in Him, all things are possible), but that He desires us to come to faith in Him, rather than forcing us to.

That said, I should again emphasize that I DO believe God knows everything that will happen (and everything in every other context as well), and that He does predestin “big picture stuff.” In essence, then, I am a predestinationist, because to influence the big picture stuff, you must influence the smaller stuff too.

#2: Presbyterian Church in America/Orthodox Presbyterian Church

In real life, I'd be a Presbyterian if I wasn't congregational on church government… I would have thought this would have been my #1.

#3: Reformed Churches

Not surprising. My church was in the UCC, which has its heritage in the Evangelical and Reformed Church… and then when my church ended its ties with the UCC (for the obvious reasons), it joined the EFCA, which also has Reformed ties. It also makes sense in that I'm a Calvinist and have the PCA in #2. :-)

#4: Southern Baptist

Yeah, this makes sense too. Part of my family is baptist (Am. Bap. though), the EFCA has many similarities to the SBC, and they are one of the few large denominations willing to stand against the plague of liberalism that all the other mainlines are suffering from.

#5: Assemblies of God

Okay, I admit it, I have charismatic leanings (although I find it ironic that that this is right below SBC). I am completely against the idea that you must exhibit a special effects gift to be “saved,” and I also think that most “gifts” that occur during church (tongues, holy laughter, etc.) are really counterfeits that people do under pressure to be “holy.” All that said, I do think that the Holy Spirit may still choose to do miraculous things in the present age.

Anyway, back to the A of G, I suspect that the fact that its HQ is only 200 or so miles from here might mean its influence is stronger than it would be otherwise on me.

#6: Presbyterian Church USA

Again not suprising…

#7: Free Will Baptist
#8: Mennonite Brethren
#9: Reformed Baptist
#10: Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
#11: Orthodox Quakerism
#12: Church of Christ
#13: Evangelical Lutheran Church
#14: Episcopal/Anglican Church
#15: Seventh-Day Adventist
#16: International Church of Christ
#17: United Pentecostal Church
#18: Eastern Orthodox Church
#19: Roman Catholic Church

Somehow I would have thought that I had more in common with the RCC than with the International Church of Christ neo-cult. Huh.

#20: Jehovah's Witness
#21: Mormonism
#22: Liberal Quakerism
#23: Unity Church
#24: Unitarian Universalism

None of these are surprising, though I feel that I can grasp most Mormon doctrines better than Watchtower ones. I guess my stance against Polytheism kills that one though…

World English Bible

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 11:40 PM

I've known about it for awhile, but it deserves mention anyway. The World English Bible (WEB) is a Free, public domain version of the Bible based on the American Standard Version of 1907. Unlike the ASV and the KJV that proceeded it, the WEB Bible attempts to use modern English, and astonishingly, many of the books of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament are already converted to modern language.

If you are like me and are tired of supporting the liberal interests of the International Bible Society and Zondervan or if you just want a Bible translation you can freely distribute to whomever needs a copy, try this one on for size. The SWORD Project has WEB Bible support so Windows, Mac, Linux, Zaurus, and WinCE users can enjoy this Bible (as can anyone with web access via the online version of the Bible).

Something to think about...

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 9:07 PM

The class is about witnessing to those that are members of the other world religions. Nothing to startling there. What is startling is that the missionary who is speaking at our church is a missionary in the sense of the word we normally think of - that is, he has traveled to a different country to do missions. Only this time, we didn't send him somewhere, he came to us from somewhere.

It's weird. A country that was (and still is) the largest supporter of missionaries in the world, needs missionaries sent to it. It seems the ABF leader is from Kenya where approximately 80% of the population is Christian… more than we have here in the U.S. Sadly, some surveys indicate that fewer than 30% of Americans have Evangelical Christian beliefs.

It seems that what secularizing forces haven't done, the mainline denominations have done for them. The decay in our major denominations, has in effect, snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory. A country decidedly Christian by choice, is loosing that Christianity through the very churches that brought it here. How sad.

There isn't much we can do, but if nothing else, we should pray about it. This is a clear and present danger - but with the power of prayer, all things are still possible.

Poem

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 10:39 PM

How Can I Live?

I stand mired in this sin
sights fixed on that mornful mount
I see you there, dying for me
I see you there, dying for me
I stand on the mount, how can I see you
as struggle in my sinfulness

As the thunder shakes the sky that day
I can't help but wonder how
How can I live, as I see you die?
How can I live, as you give your life for me?
Lord, you are the one, the only one
Yet you lived on this earth to die for me
And all I can ask is
how can I live when you died for me

All praise to the LORD God almighty, for He is the truth, for he is the first and the last. Thank-you Father for your faithfulness to your children throughout all of history, thank-you for your faithfulness with me.

Numbers

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 11:32 PM

Kevin Hartwig has another really interesting piece over on the Sakamuyo Network. In it, he notes the over-emphasis of numbers in today's Church. I think he strikes on something that can be expanded to an even larger concept: placing goals ahead of the Gospel and of the Church body.

Too often, it seems, we are so worried about the goal, the means really do seem justified. However, the church should be careful not to alienate or hurt members on the way. At my church, during Stewardship month (November) we often use a plan and sermon series known as We are Family. That's important… we are family, and we shouldn't ignore that fact when working on stuff.

Whether its raising money, or finding new ways to promote the local church, we should insure that our attempts don't tear apart the existing family in an attempt to “adopt” new members. While no one would intentionally do this, it is something that still happens way to often.

Religion and Science

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:42 AM

Isn't that the way it is with religion as well? As Christians, we must have faith there is a God. We must have faith that Jesus' death was enough to atone for us. However, just like science, our faith also applies reason. It is reasonable to believe abiogenesis is impossible, and evolution is a simply a device for Secular Humanism to displace religion. Natural revelation reveals a beauty in this earth that can only be from divine orgin.

So, the next time someone suggests that science is much more reasonable than religion…. Remind them that all science requires faith, and most scientists need a lot more faith than one needs to accept the Bible. The burdon of proof is on science - whether they admit it or not. Quite frankly, acceptance of God is the only truly scientific response to the evidence we have.

Judging as They Enter the Door

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:13 PM

My friend Kevin Hartwig has an insightful piece about judging at his site. I must say he is quite right. I'm certainly guilty of judging… It is so easy to judge, but so hard to “undo” that judgement.

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