Thursday, June 28, 2007

More about essentials

For background, read my post "Essentials".

In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity.

It's really not about me --- it's about Jesus.

But, at the same time, doctrine and theology is important. We can't go around creating our own notions of God, and worshiping our ideas rather than God Himself.

And yet...the most learned, brilliant theological minds in the world are not big enough to grasp the whole depth and infinite greatness of God. We will all make mistakes in trying to fashion our theology.

Jesus did not tell us to become learned theologians. He told us to become like a child in our faith.

He also told us to love God with all of our being, including our mind.

God revealed Himself to us in His Word, both in the written scripture and in Jesus. He has also given us teachers, and it is important to be like the Bereans and hold all teaching up to the light of God's Word. However, it is important that our study have the right motive: is it just an intellectual pursuit? Are we just seeking information and knowledge? Or are we seeking Him?

Studying the Word, ideally, should bring us face to face with Jesus. It should transform us, renew our minds, bring us closer into fellowship with Him, help us become more obedient, help us to follow Christ all the more closely.

Many people are quick to say that doctrine divides. It is obvious that it does. I have acquaintances who are upset with me for not embracing their pet doctrines; I have been one of those people in the past. Some of us have even set up or dwelt in "camps", such as the "Reformed camp" or some other such "like-minded community". It is tempting, when looking for a church, to find those that share our theological viewpoints, taste in music, and lifestyle preferences. Churches have split over these sorts of things.

Which brings me back to the essentials...what are my husband and I really to look for in a church, and how do we know when we have found it?

As I wrote before, I'm in agreement with the doctrinal statement of the church we've been attending regarding their eight essentials:
  1. About God
  2. About Jesus Christ
  3. About the Holy Spirit
  4. About the Bible
  5. About Human Beings
  6. About Salvation
  7. About Eternal Security
  8. About Eternity
Of yet, I've found no major disagreement with their practical outworkings of these essentials. Yes, my personal preferences may lie more in the direction of formality and a different structure, but my own personality quirks and tastes don't seem, to me, to be a valid reason to reject a church fellowship. I can quibble over communion, but since I am the lone dissenter in my family, what good would my quibbling do?

What am I looking for in a church? Agreement on the essentials, certainly. Liberty and charity, definitely. But what else? Here are some of the things that I've been mulling over, and this list is still in its formative stages:
  1. I am looking for a church that is serious about the Great Commission, about reaching the lost for Jesus and making disciples.
  2. I am looking for a church that is serious about worship, ministry, and fellowship. I don't want programs and "playing church". I don't want a church where I will feel comfortable for an hour on Sunday mornings. I want a church that is being the Body of Christ, and that is challenging me to live for Him.
  3. I want teaching that is not just informational, but transformational. (OK, I stole that wording directly from the pastor of the church we've been attending. The first time I heard him say this, it just resonated with me and opened my eyes to what I had been lacking for a while.)
  4. I want a church where I will see Jesus clearly in the lives of the people, especially in the lives of the leaders. I want to be challenged and delighted by people who are passionate about Jesus.
  5. I want a church that refuses to major on the minors.
  6. I want a church that will encourage my freedom in Christ.
  7. I want a church where children will be welcome in the church service. (Yes, my children are getting older, but a few are still of the age where some churches do not allow them in the service or, at best, merely tolerate their presence.)
  8. I need a church that will not distract me from what is truly essential.
There are churches that, for me, do not fit in with what I've outlined above. Does this mean that I believe that I am "too good" for such churches? No, in many respects, I believe that I am too weak for many churches, too easily distracted, too content to be lukewarm. There are lots of wonderful churches filled with wonderful people. Different things draw people together in church fellowships. At this point in my life, I think I need a church that will help me focus on seeing Jesus more clearly, and getting rid of all those things in my life that cloud my vision.

Church, for me, needs to be about Jesus and about the essentials. Anything else, I'm afraid, would be too distracting for someone like me, who is all too prone to wander off on tangents.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Rebecca.

    I found your post because of the Gothard list. It's a great list, but I would add one more:

    9. I want a church that equips and encourages me to share the gospel.

    Too bad you don't live in Clemson, SC, because I would say those nine are what we are all about.