Monday, April 02, 2007

Attributes of a Serious Church: Integrity

Today, “Integrity” gets added to my list of the attributes of a serious Church.

Integrity: Is truth the highest value? Are the orthodox essentials emphasized more than the less important beliefs or are all beliefs considered equal? Is the Pastor clear about the difference between provable facts and arguable opinions? Does a Church practice what the Pastor preaches?

Several years ago Greg Koukl wrote a piece about the six essentials of Christian faith. The whole piece is worth reading, but here is the summary:
The six essential doctrines would be: the Trinity, the deity and humanity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, man's fallenness and guilt, salvation by grace through faith by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, and belief that Jesus is the Messiah. And you have a seventh doctrine that strikes me as a functional necessity, that is the ultimate authority of Scripture without which none of the other truths can be affirmed or asserted with confidence.

Christianity has become the ultimate cafeteria religion with each individual believer picking and choosing what to believe and what to ignore. In some ways this is good. God did not create any of us to be robots or carbon copies of other believers. Through our physical, mental, and emotional differences and gifts, we become the earthly representatives of Christ as the body of Christ.

However, in other ways, Cafeteria Christianity has neutered the transforming power of the Gospel when there is no clear distinction between essential beliefs and non-essential beliefs. Churches really start to develop problems when personal opinions get raised to the level of essential beliefs. My passion and your passion can be completely different and together we can form the body of Christ if and only if we have the essential beliefs in common.

Obviously, the Gospel contains more than six or seven truths. Many Churches consider baptism by emersion an essential truth. I don’t see anything wrong with a few items being added to the list of essentials as long as a good argument can be made that the added item truly is an essential. Bible versions, dress codes, worship styles, as well as unique interpretations of Scripture are not essentials and should not be considered essential by a serious Church.

Most sermons and most discussions in Church involve non-essential beliefs. Our wisdom increases as we live and learn all of the truths of God contained in Scripture. However, there are many debatable interpretations of parts of Scripture. Pastors who give a fair representation to views other than their own are serious teachers. Pastors who can only present one point of view, which is their own, are not serious about teaching. I will have more to say about this in a later attribute.

A Church can only get where it is going if it knows where it is going and if it is committed to getting there. In most Churches, the Pastor is figuratively the leader of the band; the lighthouse illuminating a clear path; and the football referee resolving conflicts. There is absolutely no point in having a person spend hours and hours each week preparing and delivering a sermon if the sermon is not followed by actions on the part of the believers in the Church. Serious Churches have serious Pastors who deliver serious sermons for serious believers to follow and act. Churches that ignore the teaching of the Pastor are not serious.

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2 comments:

Buz said...

David,

I can't believe that you glossed over such essentials as organ vs. piano vs. guitars and drums when it comes to music, and that perinial favorite, the color of the carpet.

I had no idea you were such a heretic.

Buz

David M. Smith said...

Well Buz, I’m not quite done with the list, but no, carpet and music will not make it onto the list.