HOW TO REMAIN FRESH AND FOCUSED ON WHAT GOD WANTS YOU TO BE AND TO DO

Every morning I rise early, make coffee, and settle down for my time with the Lord. This time is essential for my spiritual health, for the focusing of my priorities, and for the deepening of my relationship with God. I share it with you in the hope that it may encourage you to orient your life in a like manner and be a blessing to you as it has been for me.

I began this habit of a lifetime when I committed my life to Christ at fourteen years of age. My pastor introduced me to the Scripture Union (www.ScriptureUnion.org) method of reading the Bible. I have followed it ever since. I use their Encounter with God guide which takes me through the Bible and supplies a brief commentary written by an international and interdenominational stable of Christian authors. The method is fourfold: PRAY before you read the passage, asking God to help you understand knowing that he is the author and wants to speak to you directly through his Word; READ the Bible passage for the day; MEDITATE on the passage, writing in a journal anything that you have learned; PRAY again, asking God to help you live out his message to you. In addition to the passage I have committed myself this year to read through all the Bible. Encounter with God provides a One Year Bible Reading Plan of three chapters each day.

After the Bible reading I have a devotional book that I add to my spiritual diet. I will read a chapter in each one and thereby gain the insights of other Christians. Over a year I may read through many of these books on the Christian faith and life. Recently I have read Risky Faith by Susan Yates, Intersections of Grace by Susan Kerr, Letters of Faith Through the Seasons edited by James H. Houston and many others.

Finally, I like to read a book of theology or Christian philosophy. At the moment I am reading He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World by R. Albert Mohler. Similar books I have reviewed in my blog posts, e.g. It’s Dangerous to Believe: Religious Freedom and Its Enemies by Mary Eberstadt, Political Church: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ’s Rule by Jonathan Leeman, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene H. Peterson, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (Abridged) by Richard Baxter & Isaac Crewdson, Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme by Dave Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons. This is a time when I can reflect upon some Christian classics which make me think through my faith.

Usually all this takes an hour. After I have taken in all this material I try to listen to what the Spirit is bringing to my attention. Listening to the Lord is an important part of meditation. I will sometimes take notes of what comes to my mind of thoughts and actions I need to take and apply to my life.

Then I spend time in prayer, either in my chair or during my morning walk. I begin with praise and thanksgiving, go on to confession, prayers for my life and direction, and then prayers for my family and friends. I use a Prayer Manual which is a monthly calendar of prayer for members and outreach ministries of Amelia Plantation Chapel, praying for about fifteen members of the congregation each day, and for the coming week of ministry.

This time has proved invaluable over the years in enabling me to keep fresh and focused on what God wants me to be and do. I could not have survived the challenges and difficulties I have experienced without this discipline. I commend such a daily practice to you. Let me know what you have found works for you which may encourage others.

HOW TO BE PRODUCTIVE

A former colleague of mine always sends me a book every year on my birthday and at Christmas. This year for my birthday he sent me SMARTER, FASTER, BETTER: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg, an award winning reporter for the New York Times, graduate of Harvard Business School and Yale. My wife sighed when she saw it. She commented that it was the last book I needed to read because my life has always been about being productive and at my mid-seventies I needed to read books about slowing down, and learning to enjoy leisure! I agreed with her but decided to scan it because I am a glutton for punishment.

I have always believed that if you can find one new thought from a book or article it is worthwhile. Duhigg writes anecdotally and draws principles from case studies. His chapter on Motivation identifies the need for purpose to energize one. Asking the question “Why should I do this or why am I doing this?” can motivate you to accomplishment when the going gets tough.

His chapter on Teams identifies the need for psychological safety and social sensitivity amongst a group to create success. That means listening to every team member and encouraging all to speak in meetings. The team leader needs to model that behavior. By sharing control we demonstrate that we are genuinely listening – repeating what someone has said, responding to their comments, showing that we care by reacting when someone seems upset or flustered, rather than acting as if nothing is wrong.

I came across a new term to me – “Cognitive Tunneling” – for becoming overly focused on whatever is directly in front of you, or by becoming preoccupied with immediate tasks so that you lose your ability to direct your focus. Instead, we latch on to the easiest and most obvious stimulus, often at the cost of common sense. He illustrates this by two dramatic airline disaster stories. To counter cognitive tunneling he advocates taking control of your attention by building mental models that put you firmly in charge. Get into a pattern of forcing yourself to anticipate what’s next. Decide what deserves your attention. The key is forcing yourself to think beyond the immediate.

The chapter on Decision Making is illustrated by playing poker. Duhigg uses it to encourage seeing “the future as multiple possibilities rather than one predetermined outcome: to identify what you do and don’t know; to ask yourself, which choice gives you the best odds. Fortune-telling isn’t real. No one can predict tomorrow with absolute confidence. But the mistake some people make is trying to avoid making any predictions because their thirst for certainty is so strong and their fear of doubt too overwhelming.” As Kierkegaard wrote, “Faith is possibility.” If God has a purpose for your life and the lives of your loved ones then there are all sorts of possibilities. Being locked into one only is a recipe for stagnation. I have been grateful for the opportunities that have been open to me over the years as I have entertained multiple possibilities. Too many limit themselves within narrow boundaries and miss out on God’s best for them to be productive in their lives.

Management books are contemporary applications of time-worn truths that can be found in the book of Proverbs and the teachings of Jesus to be good stewards of all that we have been given. St. Paul writes, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving…Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders, make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 3:23,24; 4:5)

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS AND MCCARTHYISM?

Eberstadt-Mary[1]

Using the historical analogies of the Salem Witch trials and McCarthyism, Mary Eberstadt in IT’S DANGEROUS TO BELIEVE: Religious Freedom and its Enemies, chronicles the efforts of the progressive-secular alliance in North America and Europe to enforce their dogma on contemporary society by policing cultural precincts for heretics and shunning and shaming dissenters from their anti-Christian creed. “They are the guardians of what has become a secular substitute faith, concerning the secular revolution and its perceived moral imperatives. And like the Puritanism of yesteryear, today’s secular version does not tolerate nonconformism.”

There is an inquisitorial zeal in searching out what they call bigots and haters who follow, what until today, has been orthodox Christian teaching on sexual morality. The new fundamentalist faith is that the sexual revolution of the gradual destigmatization of all forms of consenting nonmarital sex, has been a boon to all humanity. “Doing what you want” is the new master ethic. Pleasure is the greatest good. “If it feels good, do it.” Therefore traditional moral codes represent systems of unjust repression. They are judgmental and hateful. Yesterday’s “sinners” have become the new secular “saints”, and yesterday’s “sin” have become virtues. There is no sexual act that is wrong.

“The bedrock of contemporary progressivism can only be described as quasi-religious…..less a political movement than a church….it is a contest of competing faiths.”

Homeschooling is attacked as a means of indoctrinating children in “faith’s dark, lurid dogmas before science, reason and the enlightening joys of secularism take over….Homeschooling amounts to allowing the faith-deranged to infect their young with their disorder.” Parents have no right to fill their children’s minds with nonsense! The National Education Association passed this resolution for 2014-15: “Homeschooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide students with a comprehensive educational experience.” Of course the Bible, prayer and a teacher’s faith are not permitted in our public schools – just like in Communist societies until they were restored after the Iron Curtain came down in Eastern Europe when parents demanded their children be taught Christianity again. Will that happen again in the USA?

Christian charities and colleges are being attacked for adhering to their beliefs. Gordon College, in Massachusetts, where I served as Dean of Christian Life in the 70’s, has been blacklisted by local school districts for requiring their students to live by a Christian moral code. Catholic Charities have been forced out of the adoption services. There is a religious war between two groups of believers: those following a two thousand year old creed and those following a secularist creed of the last fifty years.

Why can’t we agree to disagree and allow the two groups to live in peace? Why must the secularists use shaming language and the coercive power of the government to bludgeon Christians into silence? Why can we not allow public discussion of different beliefs without demonizing one another and calling the other side intolerant and abusive? To call someone a homophobe because their belief is different from yours does not advance the debate? People of goodwill should be able to discuss and differ without using pejorative language or tactics.

“The rhetorical question that put the final nail in McCarthyism, posed by army counsel Joseph Welch and famously repeated ever since, was ‘Have you no decency, sir?’” Smearing, shaming and silencing people of different beliefs, as did McCarthy, was finally seen to be counter-productive and vindictive. Christians are not bigots because they hold to Biblical morality. The present intimidation and exiling of supposed heretics who do not conform to the elites’ sexual orthodoxy needs to stop.

Some of the great social problems of our day are caused by the breakdown of Christian sexual morality. The breakdown of marriage and the number of children in single parent families is a recipe for unemployment and poverty. Income inequality will not be solved by higher taxes on the wealthy and better schools, but by the restoration of families led by mothers and fathers committed to one another rather than the pursuit of promiscuous selfish pleasure.

WHEN SHOULD CHRISTIANS AND THE CHURCH CHALLENGE THE GOVERNMENT?

Polycarp movie

Continuing the insights of Jonathan Leeman in POLITICAL CHURCH: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ’s Rule begun in my last post, he cites the writings of John Locke which informed the thinking of the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This understanding of a social contract excluded atheists because he assumes “the social fabric depends upon commitments underpinned by the fear of God.” He writes, “The true ground of morality can only be the Will and Law of a God, who sees Men in the dark, has in his Hand Rewards and Punishments, and Power enough to call to account the proudest Offender.”

In other words the ground of government is God’s laws not man’s consciences. The more we are governed only by human conscience the more the nation will be characterized by widespread disobedience, crime and anarchy. George Washington and John Adams, among other Founders, believed that the Constitution and Bill of Rights could only work if the people were governed by religion and divine morality. For Christian citizens that requires declaring that Christ is Lord over all, and the final authority, as revealed in Holy Scripture.

“Therefore the local church acts as an embassy of Christ’s rule within the nation. It represents the invisible spiritual realities of heaven, heaven’s powers and heaven’s battles against the cosmic powers of the present darkness and the spiritual forces of evil. A church is almost like a doorway to another dimension. Through the keys of the kingdom a group of Christians open this doorway to make the invisible visible. The keys comprise the saints’ authority to establish themselves as a geographically and time-bound embassy of Christ’s end-time and uncontested rule.

Jesus does not commission churches to wield the sword and challenge governments directly. But he does commission churches to challenge the idols and false gods that prop up every government and marketplace, whether the gods of the Roman Empire or the gods of the secular West. Since no government is free of idols, churches preaching the gospel will always pose a certain kind of threat. Historical regimes have been correct to fear Christian influence and have sought to neutralize it with persecution and punishment. Persecution is the norm for Christians (John15:18-25) because Jesus is a threat to the gods of the nations. Persecution is the logical consequence of idolatry. The measure of success for Christians must be faithfulness to Christ. Our witness will be vindicated over time, sometimes in this world, certainly in eternity.”

What I take away from Leeman’s thesis is that Christians and the churches they represent are called to obey a higher authority than the State. They consent to the rule of government when it does not contradict the rule of the kingdom of God. They witness to the rule of Christ as revealed in Holy Scripture and seek to obey him as Lord even when civil government disobeys God’s law. This is the clear teaching of the New Testament. As a nation drifts away from the divine moral law and worships the idols of human conscience and so-called human freedom to do as you like, the Christian will be persecuted and pressured to conform to a new religion of “tolerance” and “diversity” at the cost of faithfulness to the Gospel. This calls for courage to witness to the truth as it is found in Jesus. The battle is on.

WHAT SHOULD THE CHURCH SAY ABOUT ISSUES OF PUBLIC AND POLITICAL LIFE?

Political Church

In the USA we are being bombarded with diverse views on the state of the nation. The national political debate pits two presidential candidates and their philosophies against one another. What attitude should Christians have about politics? What place should the church have in the public square? What should the preacher say in the pulpit? How controversial should we be? Do you think that the church should be spiritual only and not political? Or should we be engaged with the issues of the day?

As a preacher, a church leader and an American citizen I have struggled with these questions all my ministry. I am always reading material that might help me to interpret the signs of the times. I have just completed reading POLITICAL CHURCH: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ’s Rule by Jonathan Leeman. It was a hard slog of 392 pages of dense theology. However I did glean some nuggets of wisdom which may be of interest to you in this political season.

He argues that there is no such thing as a neutral secular state. Quoting St. Augustine he states that people are either for or against the Bible’s God. All humanity belongs to one of two societies – one city that “lifts up its head in its own glory” and “loves its own strength as displayed in its mighty men,” and another city that “says to its God, ‘Thou art my glory and the lifter up of mine head’ and ‘I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.”

Luther reminds us that everybody has a god – something that they worship, and so secularism is just as much a religion as any traditional religion. The Supreme Court decisions, e.g. on abortion and same sex marriage have religious underpinnings, the religion that judges traditional Christian moral standards as false. He writes, “One could argue that any and every position a person might adopt in the political sphere relies upon a certain conception of human beings, their rights and their obligations toward one another, creation and God.” Religion and politics are not separate because our religious beliefs, broadly defined, determine or yield or provide the worldview lens through which we come to hold our political commitments.

“The public square is nothing more or less than a battleground of gods, each vying to push the levers of power in its favor. Which means…. There are no truly secular states, only pluralistic ones…..In the battleground of gods called the public square, the law books present a record of which gods won a majority when the vote was taken or which could secure a high court decision.”

With the traditional, historical, Christian moral consensus evaporating an appeal is made to freedom of conscience. “But in a nation of believers and unbelievers, the unattached, unaccountable conscience will be employed to legitimize the freedom of various religions only so long as the conscience of the nation’s decision makers value them. When a nation’s decision makers decide that traditional institutional religions are a threat to liberty or equality of tolerance, they will banish them, first from the public square, then from the marketplace, and, perhaps, in partial ways, from the home (“No you may not indoctrinate your children”). See what has happened in North Carolina over transgender use of rest rooms – the marketplace is punishing the state by cancelling public events.

“The reigning ideology of the day is that we want to do what we want to do. It might even be a bill of rights, that very thing which is supposed to protect a nation from the tyranny of the majority, that will be employed to suppress the conscience for the sake of conscience…. A nation of citizens who insist that their consciences must always be free is a nation that will eventually have little patience for the incursion of the minority’s religion in public or private. There is a logic to the persecution of Christians throughout history, and it is easy to see once we recognize that politics and religion are inseparable. A people’s strongest desires – the desires they refuse to let go of – reveal their worship. And people will always fight for their idols and gods, their objects of worship. Christianity, then, will be opposed in precisely those places it opposes a people’s particular idols…Churches do not need to take up arms against the state in order to pose a threat to the state; they only need to oppose the gods upon which a nation’s political and economic institutions depend. To oppose unabated sexual freedom in the democratic West today, for instance, is to condemn one of the West’s favorite altars of worship… Sexual freedom is religious freedom in a pagan culture, which is increasingly our own. When a nation bows to Ashtoreth, Aphrodite, Hollywood heroines, or pornography, Christians who oppose sexual freedom just might expect to be excommunicated from the sacred public square. And they will be excluded for violating the very principle that grounds their own doctrine of religious freedom: the right of the free conscience…. The activities of the public square are always undergirded by some spiritual or religious worldview and everything taught inside a church building has political meaning because the church is a political assembly.”

Challenging stuff, don’t you think? More to come!

AN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE RACE PROBLEM IN THE USA

James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) was born in Jacksonville, Florida of educated parents who relocated from the Bahamas after the Civil War. In his enormously interesting and eloquent autobiography, ALONG THIS WAY, he tells the story of his childhood during Reconstruction, his home life where he was introduced to the English classics and his education at Atlanta University. He returned to his home town to become Principal of Stanton School for Negro children where he extended the education to high school. At the same time he studied to become a lawyer. His description of the Jacksonville fire of 1900 is remarkable. His brother was an accomplished musician and they teamed up to write songs for the New York stage. Johnson wrote the lyrics for the famous hymn, “Lift Up Your Voice.”

He chronicles the introduction of Jim Crow in the South, the beginning of segregation, lynching and the rise of the Klu Klux Klan. He eventually settled in New York where he and his brother were successes in providing songs for the vaudeville music world, even collaborating with Florenz Ziegfeld and other famous promoters. He became President of the New York Colored Republican Club and was active in supporting Theodore Roosevelt. He entered the Foreign Service and was U.S. Consul in Venezuela and Nicaragua where he witnessed gunboat diplomacy to put down a revolution. After Woodrow Wilson was elected President his next posting was not confirmed as the Democratic Administration wanted to fill foreign positions to reward their own supporters. Johnson disliked Wilson intensely and the Democratic Party which ruled the South and denied Negroes their civil rights. At that time Negroes supported the Republican ticket in elections.

He became the first colored Secretary of the NAACP and expanded it to become a national influence. He attempted to get an anti-lynching law through Congress but failed. The descriptions in the autobiography of the mob violence against Negroes is heart-breaking. I did not realize that such cruelty could be condoned – they burned Negroes alive at the slightest provocation.

Johnson wrote several books and much poetry. He was an extremely literate man who closed out his career as Professor at Fisk University in Nashville.

His autobiography has made me deeply sensitive to the history of racial prejudice in this country. At a time of mounting tension between the races it behooves us to become informed and aware of the problems. There are no easy solutions to the race problem. We must admit that if we are not part of the solution we are part of the problem. Christians have to search their own hearts for any vestige of racial prejudice and be willing to love everyone, whatever the color of their skin. There is no excuse for racial discrimination in the church. We are all one in Christ Jesus. Jesus died to break down the barriers between all races, “For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).

HOW TO BE PATRIOTIC: A MANIFESTO FOR TODAY

The Price of Prosperity

Todd G. Buchholz is a former White House Director of economic policy and winner of Harvard’s annual teaching prize in economics. He has authored several books and written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, and Forbes. He regularly appears on PBS, NPR, Fox Business, and CNBC, and is a co-producer of the Broadway hit Jersey Boys. His latest book, The Price of Prosperity: Why Rich Nations Fail and How to Renew Them (Harper  2016), identifies five potent and paradoxical forces that undermine nations after they achieve economic success. These include falling birthrates, globalized trade, rising debt loads, and eroding work ethic, and waning patriotism. He presents inspiring stories of historical leaders who overcame national malaise and challenges us to face the future with the courage we need to flourish. He concludes with his Patriotist Manifesto that I commend to you.

History warns us that almost every nation eventually grows too tired, too timid, or too splintered to hold together. But it’s not an utterly impossible task. The Patriotist Manifesto is both a call and a code to guide people who believe that their nation’s very existence brings about more liberty and justice in the world.

The Patriotist Manifesto

A specter is haunting free states, but this shapeless ghost is not fed by disease, bloodshed, or poverty. Instead, it is nourished by the very prosperity of the modern age and the drive for educated men and women to abandon, excuse, or disdain the myths, magic, awe, and enchantment that held nations together. Though human beings may lack the powers to rekindle such ephemeral yet once powerful forces, we should seek to establish principles that may bind us in liberty, justice, and mutual defense. Therefore, we declare that

  1. To be patriotic about one’s nation—to feel profound affection, to experience joy in its successes and sorrow in its failures—is a good thing, provided that nation defends liberty and justice.
  2. A nation’s character virtues do not stem from the rocks and soil of its land or the genetic stock of the people, but from their character and the precepts they will fight for.
  3. The people have a moral and legal right to protect against attacks, invasions, or overwhelming cultural incursions that would destroy the character of the nation.
  4. The doors of the nation must be open for “exit” and for “voice”—to allow citizens to emigrate freely from the country and to voice discontent within its borders.
  5. Immigrants have an obligation to understand and embrace the national history of their new home. Native-born citizens should encourage immigrants to feel that they have as much moral right to celebrate national holidays and traditions as those families who trace their ancestors back to the first ships to land or the first wagons to unload.
  6. Culture should not be frozen in time but should invite new stories and heroes who enhance the people’s appreciation for and attachment to the nation’s principles.
  7. The nation should establish institutions and voices that speak for future generations on matters of debt and other burdens that they will inherit.
  8. While the nation may seek defense alliances and trade with others that do not share its values and principles, it should not share its friendship or its bounties with those who stand opposed.

With these beliefs in our grasp, we may walk toward the future, preserving and renewing a nation so that it will grow, not just more prosperous, but stronger, sturdier, and more free.

BREXIT AND AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE

Many of the issues that drove those who voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union are reflected in the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Freedom to have control of one’s own destiny rather than to suffer the tyranny of government by those who do not represent you, and to be taxed to benefit others are major issues in any democracy. These are perennial issues which face us again in the U.S.A. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

Declaration-of-Independence[1]

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. ……

………..We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

Signing of the Declaration of Independence

 

IS CHRISTIANITY ONE AMONG MANY FAITHS?

William Temple

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury during World War II, was invited to participate in the World Congress of Religions – an inter-faith body. His response is a guide to how to handle similar invitations.

“I have had many invitations to become associated with the World Congress of Faiths, and I have always felt obliged to decline because I do not see how it is possible for the activities of that movement to avoid the suggestion that, while one religion may be more true than another, they are all varieties of some one thing which does not find its full expression in any of them. To me it seems that if the Christian Gospel is true at all, it must be the consummation of all religions. Its adherents may fail in appreciating that with sufficient fullness to present it as having this quality. But, unless it has it, it simply is not true. Consequently, while most eager to join with adherents of other Faiths in promoting a human welfare on lines that all can agree to follow, I have never felt able to join myself in the effort ‘to establish fellowship between all who follow a religion of Spirit,’ and I cannot imagine that any amount of discussion would alter my conviction in this respect.

Christianity is, I am persuaded, a profoundly intolerant religion, not of course in the sense that it justifies persecution, for its Lord seeks only willing adherents, but in the sense of drawing a very sharp line between those who attempt to follow its way and those who only regard this as one among a number of good ways.”

 

CAN YOU BE A CHRISTIAN AND NOT BE A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH?

Eugene Peterson

Whether we like it or not, the moment we confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, that is, from the time we become a Christian, we are at the same time a member of the Christian church – even if we do not permit our name to be placed on a church roll, even if we refuse to identify ourselves with a particular congregation and share responsibilities with them, even if we absent ourselves from the worship of a congregation. Our membership in the church is a corollary of our faith in Christ. We can no more be a Christian and have nothing to do with the church than we can be a person and not be in a family. Membership in the church is a basic spiritual fact for those who confess Christ as Lord. It is not an option for those Christians who happen by nature to be more gregarious than others. It is part of the fabric of redemption.

There are Christians, of course, who never put their names down on a membership list; there are Christians who refuse to respond to the call to worship each Sunday; there are Christians who say, “I love God but I hate the church.” But they are members all the same, whether they like it or not, whether they acknowledge or not. For God never makes private, secret salvation deals with people. His relationships with us are personal, true; intimate, yes; but private, no. We are a family in Christ. When we become Christians, we are among brothers and sisters in faith. No Christian is an only child.

(Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p.175)