Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Tom turned slowly to his right. He put a hand on David's shoulder and said, "Why don't start here with pastor Smith.  So, what is the essence of the Church . . . what do we need to know?"

David thought for a moment, "Well, if you boil it down to very simple concepts, those that apply to all cultures, I would say that the Church is the bride of Christ, and His body."

Tom smiled. "I'm sorry but that won't do. Those are artistic metaphors, things of beauty, but not material or practical concepts. We need the nuts and bolts, as you folks say, to know where to begin."

David seemed irritated. "Well, you must start with that spiritual concept and it isn't vague to us. Ask anyone in my church and they would know exactly what we mean by those ideas."

Tom said nothing but sipped his bitter coffee and made a sour face and sat in silence looking at David.

David continued, "If you want nuts and bolts then you must start with a group of true believers and a structure or organization, which means a well-defined church charter and doctrine."

Tom was thumbing through the pages of his church scripture paraphrase.  "Hmm, where is that?"  Then he looks back up at David. "The other thing, David, is that term true believers is loaded or as you say, pregnant with meaning.  This is why exploring the idea of the Gospel was so important, as the first step. But you couldn't do it without conflict so we had to move on. So we did. So here we are. So once again, where is it?"

"Where is it? Do mean where is what I just said in those papers that you put together?

"No, I mean where is it in those verses. If you prefer, use your own Bible . . . but just tell me which verses say what you just said."

David looked around the table and gave a smirk as if everyone else would be seeing things from his same angle. "This is somewhat of a no-brainier.  Christians must have some structure to have a Church. They must have a well-defined doctrine and hierarchy of authority and leadership."

Tom was sincerely thumbing through the pages of verses and looked up again, "I can't find it."

David gave a sigh, "Oh good grief, I'm not sure what kind of point you're trying to make but somethings are so obvious that it goes without saying."

Tom stared at David . . . in a quiet but respectful stare.  Eventually David pulled out his own Bible and flipped it open. He thumbed threw several passages and came to Acts and then he read, "'Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom  they had put their trust.'  That's from Acts 14:23."

Tom started to speak, "Hmmm . . . "

"Wait a minute! There's more." spoke David as he continued looking through his Bible. "Now back in the previous chapter, verse 1, it says 'Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.'"

Tom had a confused look on his face, confused enough that David knew that wouldn't satisfy him . . . so he started flipping through more pages of his Bible. "Now look here at I Corinthians chapter 14, 'What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.' Then in verse 27, 'If anyone speaks in a tongue, two--or at the most three--should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God' then in the next verse, 'two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weight carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.  The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of the prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace--as in all the congregations of the Lord's people.'"

Tom put up his hand to stop David, "Okay, that's enough for a minute.  Honestly, you've completely lost me. You told  me that the church must have a charter and a doctrinal statement.  I heard neither of those mentioned the the scriptures you just read."

"Dammit Tom!" Shouted David and three jaws dropped around the table. "I'm sorry, but I didn't mean that. What I meant was Tom, it is so clear from those passages.  You will have chaos without a charter, a hierarchy and a doctrinal statement . . . total chaos. It is clear from those passages that the church must have some form, some type of order."  


Justin said...

Just a little note to say this IS being read... keep it up.

PRS & ALS said...

Keep it coming.

Eagle said...

MJ...Have you (and others) seen the posts on Interent Monk, and Matthew Paul Turner on how Mars Hill Seattle handles church discipline? YOU have to read it!!

jmj said...

I haven't read imonk's piece but I will.

jmj said...

Eagle, I just got called to board a plane so I skimmed the piece, and will read it more later.

The main point I want to make that it is part of our fallen nature, deep desire for significance (this is what the Gospel fixes) to control and dominate other people. A spiritual cover for this raw and selfish psychological factor, is "Church Discipline." I'll talk about this later, they are calling my row.