the weblog of Alan Knox

Oh, the things we do

Posted by on Jun 28, 2008 in discipleship | 9 comments

Jeff, from “Losing My Religion: Re-Thinking Church“, is asking many of the same questions that I’m asking. Last week, he wrote two posts about the things we do as the church: “Extra-Biblical Christianity (or Stuff We Do That’s Not In The Bible)” and “More Stuff We Do That’s Not In The Bible“.

In his posts and in the comments, you’ll find many activities and concepts that are common among the church today but that cannot be found in Scripture. Similarly, you’ll find other activities and concepts that are found in Scripture, but that are defined or practiced differently today.

As many of my long-time readers know, I’ve dealt with this topic often on my blog. What do we do about ideas and activities that we do that are not in Scripture? Well, some of these things are neutral that have very little, if any, affect on us living as the church. However, some things do affect the church.

If something is prohibited in Scripture, then we should stay away from it. There are only a few things in this category, but we usually forget about them. In fact, we sometimes encourage activities and concepts such as divisiveness and quarreling (which are both prohibited in Scripture) if they help us get what we want.

If something is commanded in Scripture, then we should practice and seek those things. Again, we usually don’t have a problem with this category specifically.

But, what about things that are neither commanded nor prohibited in Scripture. I would suggest that these things are allowable (NOT necessary) as long as they do not hinder something that is commanded in Scripture. I believe that almost all of our modern, traditional church activities fall under this category.

While we are not told much about the church, we are given certain characteristics: deep fellowship and caring, sharing of all things, mutual service and responsibility for one another, everyone using their gifts, mutual discipleship, witnessing to the gospel and serving those outside the church, etc. If any of our activities and concepts are hindering the church’s ability to live out these characteristics, then we should question those activities and concepts very seriously.

By the way, here is another reason to like Jeff: He likes The Princess Bride!


9 Comments

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  1. 6-28-2008

    Well put, Alan. You nailed it.

    And thanks for the love. :)

  2. 6-28-2008

    Jeff,

    Thanks for the posts and questions. I’m sorry it took me so long to link to your posts. Keep the questions coming. Doing anything else would be “inconceivable”!

    -Alan

  3. 6-28-2008

    Alan,

    At least from my point of view, it is very difficult to find anything to disagree with here. I think that perhaps this would be a good starting point, even, from which to frame the rest of the discussion on “the assembling of the church.”

    Once what you say here is agreed upon, the next questions to be tackeled, as I see them, are:

    1. How do we know for sure what Scripture commands and what Scripture prohibits? How do we distinguish between what is prescriptive, and what is merely descriptive?

    2. How do we go about determining which activities help to further the characteristics that ought to describe the church, and which activities hinder these characteristics?

    Although some of the characteristics you list definitely hint at it, I think it would perhaps be good to also list unity and catholicity more explicitly as characteristics that are given in Scripture to describe what the church ought to look like. Of course, then you have to deal with the problem of exactly what this “unity” and “catholicity” should look like.

  4. 6-28-2008

    David,

    Yes, I think this would be a good starting point. However, I’m not sure that everyone would agree with my categories. I’ve heard too many Christians compare themselves to others, such that if anyone does or believers differently, then those people are not believers – or are immature or deceived believers at best. For many, their own practices and beliefs are the standard, not Scripture. For these types of believers, my statements would not be a good starting place.

    -Alan

  5. 6-30-2008

    Hey Alan,

    Can you give me an example of your last comment?

  6. 6-30-2008

    Lionel,

    Wow… there are so many examples. I’ll list a few examples of items that some people consider non-negotiables (in other words, they do it right and they’re not willing to discuss it): preaching style, Scripture versions, song styles, creeds and confessions, theological systems, salaried or non-salaried pastors, meeting locations, leadership, baptism, meeting days, tithes, etc. Notice that I included a few things that I hold a strong opinion on, but I wouldn’t consider them non-negotiables. In other words, people can disagree with me and still be a believer, and they can still be a mature believer.

    -Alan

  7. 9-14-2011

    Hi Alan, tried the links here for Jeff’s blog, but he’s not using this blog anymore so couldn’t access the links.

  8. 9-14-2011

    Shirley,

    It looks like Jeff’s new site is by invitation only. You can get more information at the only post that he left on his old site: “This blog has moved.”

    -Alan

  9. 4-6-2012

    Hi Allan
    Your particular focus on the relational nature of life in Christ is refreshing and I find myself reading your posts quite often. I especially appreciate your attempt in this post to navigate between top down church and free for all gatherings, and I’d like to offer a perspective, hopefully for wider discussion.
    Years ago, our small fellowship was going thru a time of testing that we thought needed to stop, in order to save our wonderful life in Christ together from being torn apart. It wasn’t doctrinal, behavioral, financial, or anything that we could find a clear corollary to in scripture. And one of those tests has never stopped, even after 30 years. I’ve come to believe it is irrelevant what the nature of the test is, because in our 40 yrs together, we have found that without exception, the response that the Lord blessed, and told us He desired, was to rest in His love, trust His Headship and love one another as He loves us. Everything in our life and lives fits into that paradigm, or not.
    Dwelling in His rest during these times of testing has taken surprising forms; sometimes action, sometimes waiting, sometimes loud or quiet, short vs long time periods and, a few times it has involved someone taking strong leadership, calculated risks, standing against the consensus of the others, being a scapegoat for others and even choosing death to avoid conflict that would hurt others.
    The point is, because our hearts were perfect in love, for Father, his Son, the Holy Spirit, one another, our enemies, family and friends; we have become family, kindred souls.
    Healthy family doesn’t argue or even sweat over leadership, mission or motives.
    They just are.
    Everything is a support to being a family, because being trumps doing.
    How we were led, who led us, where we travelled, what happened along the way and when we passed milestones or tests were secondary. Jesus life was coursing thru our spirits, enlivening our souls and governing our bodies, individually and collectively. He is His own person, and yet is also the sum of all of His parts, like a body, and we have become like Him, feeling what He feels, looking more like Him in a family sense.
    And when we don’t, we get dis-ease. Something is out of sync, it hurts, we bleed, there is pain, and we stop to tend to the intrusion to our rest in Him, even as we scurry around madly at times.
    There is no difference between being led by the Spirit or the Word of God, or each other, or circumstances, or the law, prophets or wise pagan advice, so long as our only objective is to love Him and one another as He loves us, and gave Himself for us daily, and ultimately.
    Our Father has stated explicitly and implicitly that He created the universe, the earth, us and time itself, to build Himself a house, in which He can dwell and rest, and we with Him. Together, we will all the house.
    And when we abandon fuzzy thinking and mixed agendas for simply being men and women after Gods heart, who want nothing else but what He wants, we will find the confusion, division and fleshly attempts to help Him burn away like a fog in the sunlight, and He will shine thru His Son’s body now as He did 2 millenniums ago.
    Scripture, and our lives is one long, messy narrative about Him and those who feel His heart beating, as they rest next to Him, and follow where He leads, ever onward thru the fray, to His final destination. We could dig up those hidden riches and discuss them openly with our brethren, because they were written for our learning. They will capture the imagination of our youth, soften the hearts of the angry, humble the proud and heal the blind eyes of many who are looking thru a dark glass for the light of His purposes to their struggles.And I suspect doing so will draw the attention of Satan, who is not threatened by us until we begin to unitedly purpose to build His house together, and let everything else take second place. Blessings dear brother. Greg