On July 25, 2013 a Rockford, Illinois news agency reported that a former church employee had been accused of molesting a 13 year old girl. Initially, anyone reading that headline should have reacted with disgust and/or anger. Interestingly, however, another encountered reaction is a defensive one. Yet, one should note that those on the defensive usually fall prey to thoughts riddled with emotionally-led, fallacy-styled thinking. It is the type of thinking seen whenever God uncovers sin, as evidenced in the Garden of Eden. It was the type of thinking when Peter pointed out “Simon the Sorcerer’s” sin in Acts 8. It is expected of sinners, because that’s what they do, they make excuses for their sin. A follower of Christ, however, is in marked contrast. He is one who has a deep hatred of sin, not just in his own life, but in the world around him. This deep hatred is not based upon his own feeling or standard, or else it would not be of Christ, but of man. The same hatred is also mixed with deep compassion. Consider the “Rich Young Ruler” of Matthew 19. That man was in sin, he came to Christ seeking eternal life. Christ revealed sin in that man, He had to. As Christ began to reveal sin in that man, Mark 10:21 tells us that Christ beheld him with love, and in that love Christ responded by telling him about his sin, and how to repent from it. This thought brings about the real question, the one that matters most. How should the church deal with sinners and reaching out to the lost?
The traditional modern American church position can be summarized thusly, “Come to our church, all are welcome.” This can be and is stated in many different ways, and upon the face of it, the statement is inviting, caring, and “welcoming.” Most churches today go well out of their way to create burdensome programs built to attract as many people as they can. Many are successful, many are not. But what is the standard for success? Is it numbers in attendance? Is it a growing national audience, or larger buildings, or church sports teams? From a purely sound business model, yes it is, which is why Christian Colleges offer business/management style classes as part of pastoral core curriculum. The author was required to take a few of these classes, and learned a few things about how-to and how-not-to do business. My professors were intelligent men, who were pastors as well as college profs. They knew what they were talking about, not only from books, but also from experience. They had built their businesses successfully. But did they build them Biblically? I’m not questioning their heart, though I have done so elsewhere. I’m questioning their methods. To borrow a profound question from a friend’s recent article: Can one support the way that the modern church is built, funded, and run from the Bible? (Section 2, question 10). Let’s make this a bit more personal. Are there examples in the Bible of your church? Chapter? Verse? Is it Biblical to have an “Open Door Policy” in that all are welcomed and invited to attend meetings? According to this model it is, and it is strongly encouraged by the leadership.
The non-traditional church position views the matter much differently. It does not have an “All are welcome” sign, nor does it even have a sign. This does not mean people are not welcome, however. Any would be welcome, but those who would like to fellowship must meet a few clearly laid out standards. First, those desiring to fellowship must show clear signs of a truly repentant, fruit producing follower of Christ. Second, they must desire to spread the gospel. Third, they must desire to disciple. Simple stuff, and it is expected to be done by all, not just a select few. (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:44-49, John 20:19-23, Acts 1:8, Hebrews 10:24-25 – focus on the “one another” in both verses). There is no business model outside of witness and disciple in this model. No one is invited to “come to our church”, no one is enticed to come to a program. It is a terrible business model in comparison to the traditional position. It could never pay a pastor’s salary. It could never build large buildings. It could never boast large crowds. It is not what young men and women go to “Bible College” for. To be fair, the same questions must be asked about this model that were asked concerning the traditional church. Can one support the non-traditional model in how it is built or not funded from the Bible? Are there examples of this church in the Bible? Are there examples of the “Closed Door Policy” in that people must meet requirements to fellowship with other believers? Wouldn’t such an idea be unloving? How is this model an example of Jesus Christ’s love for the world?
The author has been involved in both models, very actively too at that, as a child, student, organizer, leader, teacher, missionary, and pastor. He has seen how both models work from the most intricate details to the simplest of actions. It is from this viewpoint that posited questions will be answered, it is the author’s bias, based upon Biblical and practical applications. It is completely understood that not everyone will agree with the answers given. The only thing desired is that what is about to be offered is prayerfully, Biblically considered. Do not fall back upon emotional pleas, ad hominem, straw man, red herrings, or any other form of fallacy. They’re not helpful. One must know and understand why he believes what he believes. If his position is untenable, then why hold that position? One can and does cause much harm by thinking this way, such as what happened at the above mentioned church, or any church, for that matter.
The traditional church attempts to meet the great commission through various means. Services, programs, events, dinners, and/or sports-teams are all part of the plan to draw in the lost. In theory these attract more people’s attention, and therefore more people’s participation. Nothing is inherently wrong with these events in and of themselves, but if they become the method of evangelism then they are unbiblical. The Bible’s method for evangelism is always one on one. Consider Philip and the Ethiopian Eunich in Acts 8. What about Christ with Nicodemus? Or Peter with Cornelius? The Bible, as stated already, command all followers of Christ to spread the word. We are all to be instant in season and out of season, not just the salaried staff. There is practicality in this. First, it puts more people in the army on the front lines. Second, it is more personal. People have questions, serious ones at that. One on one allows for these questions to be asked and answered carefully, thoughtfully, compassionately. Third, in light of number two, the Christian is forced to study to shew himself approved. It forces him to prove all things, and hold fast that which is good. It forces him to know Christ. The traditional model robs the member of all of this, as, generally speaking, the vast majority of church members do not witness one on one. What instead occurs, is the leadership encourages “All to come, attend our services. We’ll put on a good show for you.” It could be a traditional show, or a contemporary show, an early show or a late show. Just attend. That’s what matters. American Christendom has an historical example of this method – the Half-way Covenant in New England churches. After a few years of this practice, churches were filled with such sin and superstition that they were useless for Christ. They opened the doors to everyone, and everyone came. Everyone brought everything, and everything sent Christ out of the church. This satanic perversion has been happening for quite some time, and not just in America (Revelation 2:12-29, 3:14-22). God commanded the churches in Revelation to repent of this, which always requires a turning from sin/error and turning to Christ.
The traditional church’s method of discipleship is even more non-committal. It attempts to use, in their term, a “shot-gun” approach to reach the crowds. The idea is that “God’s Man” will preach “God’s Message” and “God’s People” will hear what needs to be heard, and this is the Biblical plan for discipleship. To answer this issue, one must look more carefully at the Great Commission. Focus on two specific words – Preach and Teach. Preaching is to the lost in most cases (Romans 1:16, I Cor. 1:17-31). Teaching is done to those already saved. It is discipleship. One does not need to continuously preach Christ crucified to the saved, it was the foundational message that has already been lain down (I Cor. 3:11). Christ did both teaching and preaching. He did so, because some were saved, and others were lost that heard Him. (Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 11:1 – both words are used in each verse, it’s not being redundant, it’s two different things that Christ was accomplishing). He made sure to do both aspects, and He commanded us to follow after Him. (Matthew 28:19-20). He preached to the lost, and he taught his disciples, all one on one. His disciples followed this same pattern, and there is no other example given as to how to accomplish both preaching and teaching anywhere in the Bible. (Acts 1:1, 5:25, 5:42, 13:1, 15:35, 18:11, 28:31, Romans 2:21, I Cor. 2:13, 4:17, Galatians 6:6, Col. 1:28, 3:16 – notice the one another here - , I Timothy 2:7, 3:2, 4:11, II Tim. 1:11, 2:24, Titus 1:9, 2:12, Hebrews 5:12, 8:11, I John 2:27). One must be careful, however, of bad teaching as is often warned. (Matt. 15:9, Matt. 23, Mark 7:7, John 9:34, Acts 4:18, 5:28, 21:28, Romans 2:21, I Cor. 2:13, I Tim. 1:3, 1:7, 2:12, 6:3, II Tim. 4:3, Titus 1:9-16, II Pet. 2:1, Rev. 2:20).
Bad teaching comes from bad teachers, and the teacher as well as the teaching must be rebuked, as Christ often rebuked the Pharisees (eg. Matthew 23), or Paul rebuked Peter (Galatians 2:11-12). This only stirs up controversy if the person being rebuked refuses to see his error. The Pharisees did not respond properly to Christ’s open rebuke. How could they? They were lost. Peter, on the other hand, responded well to Paul’s rebuke. He knew that Paul was speaking truth, and Peter was following after the truth as a saved man. Either way, the point is that rebuke is commanded (Titus 1:13). Exhortation is commanded. Judging is commanded. (I Timothy 4:2, II Timothy 3:16-17, Matthew 7:1-6, I Cor. 2:15). A Christian can know the difference between truth and error, and Christ gave us a very powerful example of that in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:13-29). He followed that up with the parables of the sheep/goats and wheat/tares in Matthew 13. I John is entirely written to distinguish saved/lost. John 3 splits the two camps into light/darkness. Are all bad teachers lost? No. some of them are saved, but have not been disciples properly. Consider Apollos, to whom Aquila and Priscilla had to teach sound doctrine. Apollos endured that teaching, a proof of his salvation. One who will not endure sound doctrine is lost (Matthew 23, John 5:38-47, John 8:30-59, II Timothy 3:1-10, 4:3-5, Titus 1:9-16). These people get only one or two chances, no more, no less (Titus 3:10).
If bad teaching is not reproved and rebuked the consequences can be disastrous. The Traditional Church actively seeks to squelch these situations. In the fundamental setting two prominent teachers have actively taught against reproving and rebuking. Both Paul Chappell and Jack Hyles allow(ed) for no criticism of their preaching. Why? What is there to hide? What is given in defense of this ultimate, unquestioned authority? Where does this tradition come from? What are its abuses? What is its purpose? Are there Biblical examples of this position? The first and last questions on the list must be taken together. Yes, there is at least one Biblical example by name mentioned in III John, Diotrophes (III John 9). Diotrophes wanted to be preeminent, that is above all else, in charge. John blasted him in no uncertain terms, and commanded the readers to follow not that which is evil. By implication, Diotrophes and his method were evil, and should not be followed. Christ further had many sharp rebukes against such practices in Matthew 23 and His judgment against Nicolaitainism in Revelation 2-3. (Nicolaitainism is a hierarchical setting – simple or complex – in which one lords over another. It is as prevalent in Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon circles as it is in Roman Catholicism). One should further remember Paul’s comments against such man-following in I Corinthians 3. Bottom line, following man is “carnal” at best, and deadly-wicked in reality. The tradition, in a nutshell, is pagan, as Alexander Hislop details in his incredibly detailed work The Two Babylons. The head of woman is man, the head of man is not the Pastor, or the church, it is Christ (I Cor. 11:3). Consider the devastation. A seemingly devout man spends 30-40 years in the ministry. Hundreds to thousands come under his teaching, and believe that man to be “God’s Man.” He is given a place high atop a pedestal. One that is revered. He’s called Reverend, Doctor, Father, Pastor, or whatever else (Matthew 23). He’s trusted, respected, and loved. No one would ever think that this man is capable of teaching error (most people think this of their pastor, other pastors teach error, but not mine, this is subjective thinking, and very dangerous). One dark afternoon the police raid your church, and take your pastor out in handcuffs. What’s going on? What’s happening? Who is attacking this blessed man of God? The media hates Christians. It’s a liberal attack against good people. Right? That illustrates much of the reactionary thought of many, but not all. The rest of the story is soon illustrated. Pastor molested, pastor committed adultery, pastor raped, Christians involved in sexual crime…. Then there are the cover ups. ABC News foundation rattling expose in 2011 got the ball rolling, but the issues did not start there, they’ve been around for some time, and will continue to plague this system, because the system is faulty. No one dares say anything against this giant of a man of God. Surely, he couldn’t be doing anything wrong. Right? Apparently not, there are entire organizations now devoted specifically to uncovering and stopping this type of stuff within, most likely, your own church! Yes, the media has illustrated a concerted hatred toward things of God, but it also understands that sin sells stories. In other words, it knows what sin is, even if the church no longer does. Hurt church members also understand what sin is, which is why they flee in large numbers after they realized they’ve been a part of the system. In some instances, such as Trinity Jacksonville (of which I am well acquainted), those scarred institutions trade their former conservative positions for more liberal ideals. They have to, or they’d lose the numbers, which is business 101 for failure.
To this point this article has been all about expose, and pointing out problems. One must be asking, “Oh yeah, smartypants, what would you do? Could you do any better?” Inherently, that is the wrong question, but it is the normal question asked in situations like these. No, “I” could not do any better, and if “I” think I could then “I” would be guilty of what “I” just wrote against above. It’s not about me, you, I, we, etc… It’s about Christ. Granted, that seems like a pious claim that all make, but let’s back it up with some Biblical force.
In the second listed model, the non-traditional, there is a plurality of elders. There is not one person running the show, there are many. (I Timothy 5 – elder does not equal pastor, if so, then woman, who are mentioned as elders in the chapter could also be “pastors.”) Elder men have a responsibility to younger men, and elder women have a responsibility to younger women. Under no circumstance, ever, anywhere, is a pastor to, by himself, meet and teach a woman one on one, alone. That’s the elder woman’s responsibility. The same applies to elder women and younger men (I Timothy 2:11-12). In a group fellowship setting, there should be someone who keeps things decently and in order. That is detailed in I Corinthians 12 and 14, as well as Romans 12. That person, who is often called pastor, is to be an “ENSAMPLE” according to I Peter 5:1-3 (note that Elders is mentioned here in this passage). The point is necessary, because “en” means from within, and “ex”, as in example, means from without. The Elders are those who have become so within the body of Christ, and have proven themselves worthy of that double honor mentioned in I Timothy 5. (Consider also Leviticus 19:32 and Proverbs 16:31). They do not just become elders over night, but have consistently proven that Christ is indeed working in and through them, and has been for some time both in witnessing and discipleship.
Those elders have a responsibility to guard the flock. They have been around. They have much more wisdom, as demonstrated by how they handle sound doctrine, than the younger brethren. They, therefore, can spot error much more rapidly than the younger Christian, that is not to say that the younger Christian cannot spot error, or that he cannot point error out (I Timothy 4:12). He certainly can, and does. If it’s truth against an elder, however, he must be careful in how he handles the situation so as to not breed confusion. One of main functions of an elder apart from teaching and discipleship is keeping error out of the church. They are to reprove, rebuke, and keep it from entering the fellowship (Ephesians 5:1-17). This is the crux of this article’s main point. The Biblical pattern is to properly distinguish between saved and lost (Matthew 13). Once distinguished, fellowship together with Christ and believers should be a desire, one that doesn’t need to be commanded, as it is a proof of salvation (I John 1:1-4). The lost are not allowed to enter the fellowship, as the Bible commands (I Cor. 10:20-21, II Cor. 6:14-18, Ephesians 5:11-12). If, as happened in Corinth, someone “slips through the cracks”, that person, under the non-traditional method, will not abide long before he is revealed by salt and light. When found out, the fellowship has a God mandated responsibility to swiftly deal with the issue. If the professed brother refuses to see his error, he must be compassionately, yet sometimes forcefully told to break fellowship (I Corinthians 5). It is this author’s experience that churches very seldom heed this command, and in turn believe that it is their responsibility to “reform” that individual. They’ve missed the point, the person, if sin is not properly repented from, is lost in sin and one heartbeat from Hell. The modern approach does the fellowship no favors, as sin will and does eventually spread like the leaven mentioned in I Corinthians 5. PURGE IT OUT! Further, if the person in question is led to believe that he is saved, and that sin is just normal, then that church is creating a religious lost person akin to anyone in Islam, Mormonism, Catholicism, Judaism, et. al. They all know some truth, but not the clear truth that Christ came to die for the sins of the world, was buried, and rose again the third day. There should be, as a clear example, a decreasing pattern of sin, not a normal pattern. That was broken and overcome by Christ! Don’t be afraid to point this out, it’s the greatest love that a Christian can ever have for another person! (John 16:33, Romans 12:21, II Peter 2:18-22, I John 2:12-29, I John 4:4, I John 5:1-5).
Is this an argument stating that these problems cannot or do not happen in the non-traditional church setting? Not at all. But it is an argument stating that the issues plaguing the Modern system cannot, and are not being handled scripturally. Because of that being the case, they will continue. People will keep getting hurt, and in this age of mass communication, the public will hear more about it than ever before. This should be a given. Further illustration of the system’s failure is its constant creation of new programs and outreaches to, in some way or other, fix the issues. It’s simply become too complex, or to borrow a phrase from the political realm, “Too Big to Fail.” Keeping in that line of thought, the System must be overhauled. It must be built upon the only sure foundation. It must be patterned after the only Biblical models available. It must vanish so that it Christ can once again become visible. It must die, so that Christ may live.
For more on the non-traditional viewpoint, please, visit here, here, here, and here. If you’re in fact wondering about how much Bible you may or may not know, take this quiz, if you find that you don’t do well on this quiz, please, follow II Corinthians 13:5’s admonition. I’d much rather be wrong, and one ends up in Heaven, than be right and many end up in Hell. If you’re in the system’s trap, please, consider this, this, and this (The posts entitled Satan’s Suction System as well as Do We Need Better Leaders?)
Don’t keep falling prey to this system. Break free. Overcome!