KINGDOM NEIGHBORS

by Steve Dunn

Maybe I am naive, but I take seriously the words of Paul to the Corinthians.

“12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many …  25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” ( I Corinthians 12:12-14, 25-26)

I believe that individual congregations are part of that Body called the church. That means each church has a part in the kingdom plan of our Heavenly Father. We are not programmatic competitors nor doctrinal adversaries. We are partners in the work of Kingdom, but more than that, we are interdependent parts who really need one another.  And we need to exhibit far more concern for the health and well-being of one another.

When congregations flounder in problems or are weakened by conflicts, what is our response? Do we pray for them or do we sit back and watch and then scoop up their losses to swell our numbers and increase our statistics (or staff our Sunday School since we have already burned out the teachers we had)?

Do we offer to help our sister congregations regain their unity and health?

Or do we simply continue to “grow” by rearranging the current kingdom population instead of focusing together on the lost and the unchurched?

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LET’S GET OVER OURSELVES

BY CHARLES BLAKE

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature
God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature
of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:3-8

Arrogance is just ugly.

Whoever you are and whatever your message may be and however important that message is to me, if you deliver it with arrogance, I will not hear it.  It really is that simple…that cut and dried.  Maybe it is just me, I honestly do not know, but arrogance just so rubs me the wrong way that (despite my best efforts) I simply cannot get past it to hear the message behind it.

My bet with this blog post is that I am not alone in this perspective.

To me, there are just not very many character flaws uglier than arrogance.  I say that with a touch of self-deprecation, because I know with certainty that I am capable of this particular flaw myself.  I really, really hate it when it comes out in me, because I believe it is so very ugly when I see it in anyone else.

The more I read and listen to people outside the church about why they are not interested in being inside the church, when you start cutting through to the essence of their complaints, when you boil them all down, they mostly seem to come down to arrogance on the part of the church in one form or another.  But the interesting thing is, I don’t think we (the church) are all that in touch with our own arrogance.  So here are some areas of  ”latent arrogance” on our part…arrogance to which we may be blind but which is very real to the outside world:

1.  Theologians, We: Do you believe it is possible to have a right theology and a wrong heart?  Indeed, my theology can be perfect, i.e., my interpretation of scripture can be right on the money without my having even the slightest evidence of the Spirit of God living in me.  I see it here in the blogosphere all the time…people chiming in to theological debates with such venom and vitrious, it makes me (the lawyer) blush!  Part of the problem here is that we forget the Biblical truth that “for now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror”.  We hold our theology as if we see everything perfectly clearly, thank you very much.  How can we believe we see all Spiritual truth perfectly clearly when our best source of Spiritual truth tells us that, in fact, we see it all pretty dimly for now?  For more on this issue, I love this post from Donald Miller.

2.  Insiders, We: I recently posted here on the problem of having our own “denominational vocabulary” and how that tends to disconnect us from those outside our church.  The first time I published that post, a particularly insightful comment (thank you, David!) reminded me that we are never in more danger of being arrogant than when we are feeling like an “insider” in any organization or institution, particularly including the church.  Like Peter, who was in the exclusive “inner circle” of apostles who got to see the Transfiguration, we run the risk of thinking we are something when we are not, and a humiliating correction is probably in our near future!

3.  Moralists, We: Granted, there are obviously plenty of social issues upon which even Christians do not agree, but we do agree on an awful lot, assuming a Biblical worldview.  What baffles me is that we somehow expect the rest of the world to see these issues the same way we do, and when they do not, we (arrogantly) decide they are just ignorant heathens, devoid of any redemptive value.  What’s more, we then rail against them and boycott them unless they relent and agree to act like Christians.  Frankly, some of our camps spend more time and energy trying to get non-Christians to act like Christians than we spend trying to get our own brothers/sisters to act like Christians.  Here are some important words from Paul to the Corinthian church who was dealing with moral issues of its own: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” I Corinthians 5:12-13.  Judging those outside the church is, well, arrogance.

I could go on and on, but we’re already way too long for this post.  But seriously, friends, can we just get over ourselves in these regards and begin earnestly seeking the mind of Christ in our attitudes toward others?  Oh, what a difference that might make in the world!

© Blake Coffee
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CONFESSIONS OF A BETH MOORE CONVERT

Confessions of a Beth Moore Convert

by Karen Spears Zacharias

Why the Bible teacher with the big Texan hair may just be our female Billy Graham.

Americans are becoming more biblically illiterate than ever. The Barna Group reports that fewer than half of us can name the four Gospels. Sixty percent of us couldn’t name five of the Ten Commandments, and fewer still could name two or three of the disciples.

The now-deceased but ever-respected Michael Spencer warned that this illiteracy was only part of the free-fall that is seeping into evangelicalism. Spencer warned in 2009, in the widely read “The Coming Evangelical Collapse”: “Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can’t articulate the gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.”

Spencer was right. We have managed to busy ourselves with issues that have us flailing about in shallow waters, rather than investing in the disciplines of our faith. We find it sexier to participate in a march advocating prayer in schools than to actually spend time praying. We’d rather sit at Starbucks discussing the Bible than to spend time reading it.

Bible Study is like homework, right? And everyone knows, homework is, like, so B-O-R-I-N-G.

Unless, you happen to be Beth Moore.

Linda, my sister, has long been a fan of Moore’s. Over the past decade, if Moore was within a day’s driving distance, my sister was in the audience. To be honest, Linda’s rabid devotion for all-things-Moore annoys me. My sister waited four months before ordering my most current book. If Moore releases a new book, Linda has it ordered within four minutes. Hundreds of thousands of women share my sister’s affection for Moore and her teaching ministry, but as usual, I’m late to the party.

I gave up on women-only Bible studies in the 1980s. I’m not a huge fan of fill-in-the-blank workbooks. I’m loathe to whittle big issues down to four words or less. I wrangle publicly with hot-topic issues like gay marriage, war, and the poor. As a rule I don’t like uniformity or conformity. If a pastor asks the congregation to repeat something together, I’ll be the woman singing a Janis Joplin tune aloud instead…

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Her.meneutics: Confessions of a Beth Moore Convert