Monday, March 23, 2009

IS YOUR CHURCH A FRIENDLY CHURCH

It took the church a while to figure out why they were considered to be elitists. They did not understand why visitors would walk up to the front doors and then turn around and leave. They considered themselves friendly but noticed the whispers around town.






Eventually, they figured out what the problem was. Can you see the difference?











Simple question. Is your church invitational or by invitation only?

19 comments:

selahV said...

Our church has people opening the doors for people. And then people standing at all the corridors to help guide them if they seem lost. We have folks greeting folks at all the entrances. Greeters know most of the visitors as soon as they walk in and are able to help get them to specific classes by leading them or directing them. It's a pretty neat church. selahV

Luke said...

We have a greeter/s too.

I was wondering though, did you catch the difference in the photos?

Byroniac said...

I finally noticed, on the THIRD try. LOL! (Seriously, what about house churches? I find those to be closer to the New Testament model, though they're not strictly required).

Luke said...

Hey Byron,

I think house churches are great. I also think "formal" churches are great too though I think of them more in the Synagogue fashion than the Temple.

Might I add though that a house church usually cannot remain "house" very long. If they grow, they need a new house and we build them. They are called "church houses". Much can be said in favor of both. It is interesting is it not, that in the book of Revelation, each letter was addressed to a specific church in a specific area and not churches. What ya think?

Byroniac said...

That's a good point, Luke, that bigger buildings become a requirement for a growing congregation. But houses are buildings, too. Guess the first step is to meet in the biggest house available to the members. After that, I guess you're on your own, unless you rent or build. What I don't get is the mentality that says, we gotta have a building, and it's gotta have a name, and it has to have this specific religious purpose which guarantees it will be empty five days out of the week. And we can't have church outside of it, nosiree.

My perspective is that the building is irrelevant from the divine perspective. The church is not the building, but the people, wherever they decide to meet (indoors or outdoors, though I much prefer indoors). And my theological persuasion is Sovereign Grace, which almost guarantees a small, conveniently house-sized congregation.

I believe in the New Testament, not all the members of the church always met at once and at the same time. For example, the three thousand in Jerusalem surely could not have met in one house at the same time. They were the church in Jerusalem by virtue of their membership in Christ, not their participation in a "fellowship" or a "building" each week. I think to a lesser extent (in terms of numbers), this was probably true for the NT churches such as Corinth. We are far too building-centered and denomination-focused.

Luke said...

Byron,

While I am willing to grant you that some may think, "we have to have a building", there are others that are thinking, we've gotten so big, everyone cannot fit, "we really need a bigger building". Also, I'll grant that there are a few that may have the mindset that church can only be had in the "church house" but I do not think that that is necessarily the mindset of the majority. Perhaps you'll grant me the opportunity to pry for just a moment but it sounds to me like you have run into some sour pickled religious empty clouds and they have left such a bad taste in your mouth that you now gauge most others by those few. Just a guess now.

I certainly agree that the building does not make the church and that the church is the people. Absolutely. And I also believe that if a church preaches nothing by the doctrines of TULIP, that they condemn themselves forever to a smaller congregation. TULIP is neither the "be all" or "end all" of Scripture and the fact that some make it that is very sad indeed. Perhaps some have taken it too far when the pastor has to declare the person saved after a rigorous catechism?

And again, I'll grant you that it is difficult to conceive that all 3000 met at once at one home, but certainly you cannot discount the fact that they all met on that one day and heard Peter preaching and so I don't doubt that they were all able to meet at one time. Again, I find it quite interesting that the Epistles of Paul were addressed to, for instance, the church at Ephesus. Not First Baptist of Ephesus or First Methodist but simply "The" church at Ephesus. And again, while there may be some who are denominational centered rather than Christ centered, it does not necessitate the putting away of denominations. Rather, addressing the errors of those ought to be what takes place. I am not surprised at such though because it is very much like Satan to sow tares amongst the wheat. We don't cut the wheat down though to get rid of the tares.

Byroniac said...

Luke, the sour-pickled religious clouds that left such a bad taste in my mouth were not due to negative experiences on my part but the realization that most of what we call "church" is completely bogus, and my "religious life" completely unraveled from that point, leaving me free of man's religious systems. I'm pretty much done with Institutional church and organized religion. Oh, I'll attend, which is what I'm doing now at a new church, but the "moving my membership" and getting voted into the club just simply aren't on my agenda any longer. If I hadn't already been Scripturally baptized I would seek to do that once out of obedience, but church membership on paper adds nothing to my walk with Christ or any spiritual benefit.

And Sovereign Grace churches don't simply focus on the TULIP as the whole reason for their existence. Rather, that is how it appears to those on the outside because of being founded on the unshakable conviction of the absolute sovereignty of God (something I don't want to get into here because it is off-topic with your post). This conviction shapes everything else, and most Christians (that I know of) at best ignore it and more often actively separate from it. And perhaps they should.

The 3000 probably met outside to hear Peter preach. Acts 2:42 is an interesting verse and I'm not sure if you can argue for the Lord's Supper in private homes out of it or not. I think so, because of the OT Passover being held in each Jewish home and these were all originally Jewish believers if I'm not mistaken.

Acts 2:47, "Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." This shows the Lord did the adding, not man or man's votes. And it uses the same singular language of "church" because (in my view) the focus is on membership in Christ. And of course they all met at one time to hear Peter preach, but they met in individual homes (mostly with their families), too, and probably had "church" there as well (OK, I admit, that's an assumption on my part but I think it's a good one).

And I see your point about denominations, which always exist as long as there is disagreement among brothers and sisters in Christ. But you don't find denominations anywhere in Scripture. Of course error must be addressed, but the idea of splitting off and forming a separate denomination was man's idea.

Sorry, have to get one more thing off my chest. I can almost see "First Baptist Church, Incorporated" or "First Baptist Church, Private Club" because you have to be voted into membership to "join the club", then you pay membership dues (tithes, which are unbiblical), then they take donations (offerings) on top of that. And you have dress codes, and expectations as a result of membership that extend into your personal life (all social groups do, and it's not something I disagree with). So, it's like, well, I'm a member of Mainstreet Credit Union, I belong to Sam's Club, and I'm a member at First Baptist Church, too. I know that's not how it really is, but the similarity is striking.

Luke said...

Byron,

Well it is obvious I'm not a seer, eh? Let me give you hope. In our church, you do not join by moving your membership. In order to join our church, a person stands IN FRONT of our church and CONFESSES Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I also give opportunity if someone knows why we should not accept someone into our fellowship. We will "move" a persons membership but I still like that idea. It lets the previous church know where the member went if they do not already know and it gives the other church an opportunity to warn us if the new attenders are troublemakers. Aside from that, I too dislike the "country club" mentality as well as the you MUST wear such and such. But again, while you may be able to point to people that think that way and even a church or two, I don't see it as the norm but rather as the anomaly.

My point in bringing in the Sovereign Grace churches was that although I do not think they are all bad, I know of one that would make me run from ANY church like theirs. If I was not careful, I could lump them all into that same group but that would not be fair now would it? Byron, I absolutely do not doubt that you and I could worship and study together. I also do not doubt that there are "country club churches" but I don't think that they are all that way. I'll even be so bold as to invite you to the church I pastor if you are ever this way.

By the way, I still haven't forgot about lunch. I'll be out next week but I'm seeing a time frame opening up in the near future.

Luke

Byroniac said...

Luke, there's not a lot I can possibly disagree with in your comment. There are Sovereign Grace churches *I* wouldn't be welcome in for one reason or the other (KJV-only, Landmark churches come to mind, and I visited one once). I would give good counsel to run away from such a church and join yours instead. ;)

However, a bit about joining. If someone is truly intended by God to be a member at your church, then he or she is a member simply by virtue of being obedient to God's call and showing up for attendance. Unfortunately, that spiritual reality isn't a visible one, so you have to check previous churches and screen out troublemakers and all that. You'd be nuts if you didn't in today's world. But just out of curiosity, what would you do with someone who was clearly regenerate, didn't belong to any church, but faithfully came to yours and had done so for the last 8 or 9 years. Are they not members in some sense?

And I think from reading your comments that I have a skewed view in a sense. I might even be suffering from false impressions, or at least, anomalies which are not the norm of Christian Baptist experience. All I know is what I've experienced, and experience is a great teacher, but it isn't infinite.

I appreciate those warm words. I have no trouble fellowshipping with anyone who's regenerate and therefore Christian, at least I strive to do so. I may not subscribe to a person's ecclesiology but that shouldn't hinder Christian fellowship. Look forward to meeting you, and maybe you can set me straight on some things.

Luke said...

Set YOU straight? Yeah right. I have my hands full with just dealing with myself.

The 8-9 year attender would be a member in some sense I assure you. In that time, their witness would speak or have spoken rather clearly. But being a member at our church is more of a call to duty. It is "expected" of church members to be active and participatory. It is not expected of "visitors" to be active and participatory. That would be the distinction I would draw. But now that would take our conversation in a new drift. Committed membership. Those who are actually committed to working and helping the church to be vibrant as opposed to those who just breath air.

But I'm still not ready to toss the baby, "membership", out with the bath.

Byroniac said...

Luke, I believe the "visitor" should be committed to the church in that instance, and work in it and with other believers. They do not need to wait for official membership approval to do that. They should be exercising spiritual gifts automatically through the Holy Spirit, as I do not believe He intends for anyone even with just one talent to go hide it in the ground. And by saying this, I'm not against church membership: there has to be some agreement in the body as to who is in the body or not, or there can be no discipline. I'm just saying, maybe we could lose the paper trail (I'm pretty sure the underground churches in China couldn't function like American Baptist churches and survive, but that's a guess on my part).

Well anyway, just wanted to explain that.

Luke said...

Uh, actually, there were paper trails for at least leaders in Paul's day. That is why he sent letters with the men so that the receiver could see Paul's "John Hancock" and know that the person should be received well. Also, I don't necessarily think that their society was as mobile as ours and out of necessity then, church membership papers became the norm.

I do realize they are and can be abused. But if used correctly, they can easily facilitate church work.

Byroniac said...

Luke, I think those letters you mention did not exist until the need arose (could be mistaken, but I think that's the most reasonable interpretation). And, conveniently or inconveniently, all that survives of those letters now is their mention in Scripture (otherwise, they would turn into relics). And I honestly do not believe "membership papers" had to be kept to know who was a member or not: in times of persecution from Jews and Romans, those that showed up were probably genuine Christians and had their membership in Christ (of course, there may have been false professors and infiltrators, which had to be guarded against, but I don't know of any Scriptural references to such in the Jerusalem church where most of the apostles were). The society not being mobile I think would actually be a good argument against membership papers: it's the whole idea of, "we know who our members are each Sunday, because they're the ones that show up and have no where else to go practice this new-fangled religion which is hated everywhere." Where else would they go? And why go to church at all if it was so much easier and less offensive to just go along with the Judaism crowd and let the offense of the Cross cease?

Byroniac said...

Sorry, Luke, I am thinking of Acts 15:23. If you are talking about 1 Cor 16:3 or 2 Cor 3:1 that may be a "membership" letter of sorts, but it doesn't seem to have any sense of being kept and preserved for posterity, but is just a device for communication for a present need.

Luke said...

"but is just a device for communication for a present need."

PRECISELY my point ole boy. It meets a need.

BIG GRIN

Byroniac said...

So, after the need is met, then what? That's why I wrote right before that, "but it doesn't seem to have any sense of being kept and preserved for posterity," and I still have a question (rhetorical, I guess, because I see no answer to it), what happened to these letters? If a new need arose, new letters were probably written too: I see nothing generic about these letters.

It's kind of like me writing a letter to Bob, "Hey Bob, Billy is a friend of mine and he's a good guy." Sure, the letter serves a purpose. After its purpose is achieved, then what? Spring cleaning happens (what needs to happen to my desktop!). This is what I call, losing the paper trail.

But if you reply, you've got the last word, unless you specifically ask me a question.

Byroniac said...

Luke, I was wrong. Apparently Acts 15 contains a letter verbatim (vv. 23-29 I think) from history. Even so, I'd say the letter was more about the doctrinal issue and less about membership (membership I'll grant was essential here because of the importance of the doctrinal discussion).

Hope you had a great night with the church! (notice I said, "with the", not "at"). :)

Luke said...

Byron,
Well, I was going to let you have the last word and then you went and wrote more.

Great time at church. We were encouraged to not make blessings from God idols to ourselves. Rather than worship the blessing, we are to worship the Giver.

Maybe we should also consider Philemon. While it was a letter to cover much, one thing it certainly did was relate to Philemon how Onesimus was in good standing with Paul. Just a thought.

Hope your day is exciting.

Byroniac said...

Thanks, Luke. God Bless. I am sure the church appreciates your ministry.