Saturday, June 27, 2009

Does Doctrine Matter? Aka, Promise Keepers Tries Again

Is church structure really that important? Is "what we believe", our differing doctrines, really that important? Aren't we all united in Christ by trusting Him for His righteousness; that it is indeed "finished?"

Paul very carefully set up the church to survive into the 21st century by encouraging preacher Timothy to "Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." (1 Tim 4:16) and again to the leaders of the Ephesians church before setting off for Jerusalem, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood." (Acts 20:28)

In other words, keep watch over 1) yourselves and your own doctrine, and keep watch over 2) your flock and their doctrine. This seems to be the smallest common denominator that Paul set up. A pastor and his flock united in doctrine, as Paul taught that doctrine. Outside of a public family church, there is no consideration. Read the passages before and after these verses, and it only reinforces this thinking. "Believe my teaching, and make sure your whole flock believes the same thing," is what Paul seems to be telling us.

So now, the big denominations and theologies come into play. Churches will split over doctrine. That would be biblical, if then each new flock and pastor (or groups) were again united in their understanding of Paul's (Jesus') teachings. Are the different understandings still blessed by God? Of course, when they are both biblical in a God approved "gospel" sense. There's not only one true denomination to which all must conform, thanks to the Reformation. Paul didn't set up a universal church with ONE interpretation of his (Jesus') teachings that we all must conform to or perish. (The pope didn't necessarily have a lock on it.) Paul set up churches that met for his teaching (doctrine) publicly, and house to house, (Acts 20:20). Everything above and beyond that, or less then that, we seem to have set up.

So within denominations, each church conforms to what the greater group believes, or splits and forms it's own denomination. That's biblical, as mentioned above. God has set up a family church where he can reach all within that family church by inspiring the leadership of that family church. Everyone stays on the same page. It seems a most efficient system to me. They can be part of a larger denomination of like-minded believers, or not. There seems to be no smaller unit then the 'public' unit, though. We are in it together, at the least as a single church united in doctrine.

Case in point: Look what happened to Promise Keepers in 10 years (though they are not a church). All sorts of different doctrines uniting to build up the faith just doesn't work, regardless of where their hearts are, how good their intentions are. It's not biblical, just a movement, and not blessed for the building up of the church and the saving of souls. This year they will have one conference, women are invited, so the original purpose of the movement has died, they are inviting all to come whether they can afford it or not "We'll let you in for free, we'll feed you for free, just get registered." says co-founder coach Bill "Mac" McCartney. Don't they hear the shot across their bow? If they are going to try and build faith with no agreement on doctrine, then this latest effort will fail, too. Faith building and spreading the gospel is done amongst like-minded Christians. Otherwise you have pea soup. McCartney doesn't get it. He promises an experience with God at the conference, as if God will be coerced into showing up. He would be more honest to just promise an experience. An "experience" can easily be delivered.

Just ask Joel Osteen, who is Lakewood Church. Osteen says he doesn't like talking about sin because it makes people uncomfortable. I imagine "uncomfortable" interferes with experience building as he sees it. All righty then. If all inclusive faith-building is not biblical, and it's not, then Joel, a remarkable man, and sadly, his church, will get their comeuppance soon enough. I await the day. It will encourage the true church, as set up by the apostles.

In the mean time; believers, unite around the doctrine of your church and leaders. Or go where you can do that. And leaders, listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling you- as your faith and doctrine goes, so goes your flock "which He bought with His own blood." (Acts 20:28) That's an awesome responsibility. God blesses and moves churches that are united in beliefs, regardless of where they fall on the Calvin/Arminian scale, and only if the beliefs of those churches through their leadership is acceptable to Him. That's actually pretty inclusive. The bible and Holy Spirit, using great scholars, have given us the apostles' teachings, whom seem to have settled on just a few main theologies, that are acceptable to God. We all fall somewhere within them, if it's the true apostles teachings, and not our own, as in Osteen. Having a shallow understanding of the teaching / doctrine in order to be "all inclusive" is the aforementioned pea-soup, and doomed by default. Movements will fail, churches will fail, but God is in charge, doesn't change, and He won't fail.

And I hate to say it, but it's not the bible's teaching interpreted by me that unites us and launches an Acts 2 church. It was the devotion to the apostles' teaching and the peoples response to that true gospel in Acts 2:42 that launched the church, and puts us on the "apostles" page, not our own. Let's unite around their understandings, and keep our own understandings submissive, and we'll be out of God's way. Picking out our own doctrine leads to just another movement of man, and that leads nowhere. Just watch TBN and you'll see what I mean. They've added a lot to, and taken a lot away from the gospel, and they will eventually pay for the damage to the church. It affects us all, tempts us all to compromise, and who is the tempter? Have mercy on your church, O Lord.

No comments:

Post a Comment