Archive for November, 2008|Monthly archive page

Staying and Leaving and Denying the Obvious

The diocese of Fort Worth, TX, recently withdrew from The Episcopal Church USA. The denomination’s office of public affairs released this statement from their liberal leader, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

The Episcopal Church grieves the departures of a number of persons from the Diocese of Fort. Worth. We remind those former Episcopalians that the door is open if they wish to return. We will work with Episcopalians in the Diocese of Fort Worth to elect new leadership and continue the work of the gospel in that part of Texas. The gospel work to which Jesus calls us demands the best efforts of faithful people from many theological and social perspectives, and The Episcopal Church will continue to welcome that diversity.

Here is what Dr. Mohler said on his radio program regarding this statement:

That is one of the most incredible demonstrations of denying the obvious I think I’ve ever seen. She is having diocese after diocese leave… you just have to assume that somehow [the leadership of the denomination has] bought into the fact that people leaving just makes them all the more right. That somehow they must be so right that people just can’t stand the truth.

Over the course of the past three years as a founding member of a church plant, I have seen many other founding families also leave (actually all of the founding families have left except for two of them).  According to the recent increase of traffic on my blog, I am guessing that people have been looking for me to post something about this…but I haven’t really known what to say about it.  I really can’t stand bloggers who use their blogs to vent about things they can’t say to people in real life.  So what I’m writing here is about me and what I have learned from this experience and how I will change because of this.  I’ve actually articulated these thoughts to real people before writing it here so this is not some kind of virtual forum for me.  That is not what “play the man” is about.

Anyways, as family after family left our church plant I did exactly what Dr. Mohler points out is happening with the leadership of the Episcopal Church (ouch!).  I denied the obvious and assumed that their leaving made me all the more right and that somehow I must be so right that these people left because they just couldn’t stand the truth.
I have been on both sides of this issue during the past three years.  I left a “purpose driven church” three years ago and others stayed – those who stayed thought that my leaving proved they were doing things right and that I was just the devil’s tool holding them back.  More recently (as a part of the church plant and NOT the ‘purpose-driven church’) I’ve been on the other side.  As I watched families leave the church plant, I believed that the leaving of these people proved we were doing things right and that they were just the devil’s little tool holding us back.
Oh sure, there are times when people leave for no good reason at all.  I know that.  And there are times when people leave for all the wrong reasons.  I really don’t like that, but I know it is true.  However, in pretty much every case during the last three years, people left because those who stayed denied the obvious and “bought into the fact that people leaving just [made] them all the more right” and “that somehow they must be so right that people just can’t stand the truth.”

I won’t do that again.  I won’t deny the obvious and I won’t treat people as if their leaving made me all the more right and I won’t think I must be so right that people who leave just can’t stand the truth.  I won’t do that again.

I think I may be a one point Calvinist now

I read the quote below the other day on the Acts 29 blog. It is from J.I. Packer’s introduction to the John Owen classic, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.

The very act of setting out Calvinistic soteriology [the doctrine of salvation] in the form of five distinct points (a number due, as we saw, merely to the fact that there were five Arminian points for the Synod of Dort to answer) tends to obscure the organic character of Calvinistic thought on this subject. For the five points, though separately stated, are inseparable. They hang together; you cannot reject one without rejecting them all, at least in the sense in which the Synod meant them. For to Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners.

God – the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing.

Saves – does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies.

Sinners – men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners – and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedalling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with his Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the “five points” are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen.

I guess I’m a one pointer then…

Content to Sit

Forgive me for the delay in posting – it has been a consuming month.

My family and I have been a part of a church plant the past three years. November 2, 2008 was our last Sunday at that church. On November 9, 2008 we visited a different church in our area…and it was so sweet. I felt so welcomed and at home, and really no one did anything out of the ordinary to make me feel that way. In fact I think that is the reason I felt so comfortable. Folks just came up to us and welcomed us and spoke with us and made us feel at ease. As worship began, I realized what made the difference. The focus of the morning was not on the “visitors.” The focus was on Christ, on worshipping God. Of course people recognized that there were visitors present – but I knew that they were in no way catering to me. It really put me at ease to know that things did not revolve around me being there, but everything revolved around the presence of God being there.

Don’t we tend to treat visitors at worship services as if everything depended on them being there…as if the reason why we had a worship service to begin with was so that they would show up. I think that actually has the opposite effect than what is often intended. We want to make folks feel welcomed and as though they really mattered and so we go way overboard on trying to create that kind of atmosphere. What ends up happening though is that the visitor now becomes uncomfortable instead of welcomed. I felt welcomed and at ease and comfortable because the focus wasn’t on me, it was clearly on Christ and worshipping him.

For the first time in 3 years I got to sit with my wife and my children and sing to the LORD with them at my side. This is so unusual that when the musicians began to play at the beginning of the service, my son and daughter both said to me, “Daddy, you better get up there! Daddy, you need to go up there!” But I didn’t need to go up there. Actually, I realized sitting there with my family that Christ was going to be worshipped in that place if I was up on stage or not or if I was in the congregation or not. That was a great feeling – to be content to sit with the church and know that what really mattered was not my visiting the church, but the person of Christ being worshipped by the church.