Several weeks ago, I made a snarky comment from the pulpit about us singing some songs that even I don’t like. Well, let me say this…”Only a Holy God” is not one of those! Introducing that song to our church was something I’ve been eagerly looking forward to. And our team did a great job with that. In that same vein of thought, this is one reason why I thought it was important for us to recognize our sound/tech/worship team. These folks are doing a great job. One of the key character traits of the folks on this team has been humility. And this has been their trait for years. From Ky Bendele, who led us in song for a number of years, to now Perry Sorensen leading us…our team has been marked by this wonderful trait. So, when you see them…thank them…and then when you come on Sundays…sing…loudly, joyfully, and humbly:).
Further explanation from Sunday’s sermon: Let’s talk a little more about the “open-handed” and “closed-handed” issues.
- In working with other Christians and seeing where we can “agree”, the discussion on Sunday was enough. It’s really important to know what are the issues that we must “agree” on as Christians.
- Now, but what about the local church? How does this work itself out in a local setting like CLF? Further, when deciding to join a local church, what things should you consider?
- You can imagine being in Corinth and the only Christian church available was the one that met at Aquilla and Priscilla’s house…the “closed-handed” issues that I mentioned Sunday were the ones that Paul informed them to agree upon. Further, those would be the baseline issues that we would need to agree on in a local church, where there are multiple church options, like Roseburg or the Western part of the world, for the most part. But let me say this, when there are not many church options, the “closed-handed” issues are what we’re looking for.
- However, when you have “options”, this is where some of the “open-handed” issues begin to help you make a decision.
- Let me give some examples:
- You might love the church you’re in and there is complete agreement on the “closed-handed” issues, but this church believes in all the spiritual gifts being active today in the modern church, but you don’t. They’re “continuationists” but you’re a “cessationist”.
- You might love the church you’re in and there is complete agreement on the “closed-handed” issues but you might believe that women should be able to “teach with authority” to all genders in all contexts, but the church you’re in doesn’t. You’re an egalitarian, but the church is complementarian.
- You might love the church you’re in and there is complete agreement on the “closed-handed” issues but you might be a card-carrying member of the “Jesus is going to come in my earthly life-time” group but the church believes something different about End-times. You’re dispensational in your eschatology while the church has a different view of the millennial and the return of Christ than you do.
- You might love the church you’re in and there is complete agreement on the “closed-handed” issues but you love singing choruses, but this church loves singing out of the hymnal.
- What do you do? How do you navigate through this?
- First, I would say that you have to make a decision based on conscience…where can you go to church, without violating your conscience? That means that at some level, you’re going to need to decide which issues, for you, may not be “closed-handed”, but they’re also not “open-handed”. They’re more like “half-closed, half-open, handed”. What are issues that you’re willing to “let go” of or allow, before you feel like you’ve violated your conscience.
- Second, if you choose to stay at a church where you disagree on some “open-handed” issues, it’s critical that you let the elders of that church know your position on those things and that you posture your heart with humility. In other words, let them know that you disagree, but you’re not going to be a thorn in their side over those issues. And affirm to them, where you agree.
- Third, recognize the differences between doctrine and distinctives and try to find a church that matches up with your doctrines and distinctives the best. Doctrines are those items that the church leaders can clarify biblically. They have a stance on them and they’re going to teach them. Distinctives being how the church practices its doctrine. They might believe in the gifts, but they have no plan for how they’re used in a church service. They might believe that women shouldn’t preach in the larger, church-gathered context, but they don’t have a plan or a place for women to function in the church. Doctrines and distinctives matter.
- Let me give some examples:
- A personal example: I grew up Southern Baptist but I grew to believe in the spiritual gifts (odd-ball for my church and time). When I moved to Roseburg, I purposely joined a charismatic church (to learn about how they viewed and used the gifts). What I didn’t know until a couple of years later that they believed that women could teach when the church gathered and they ordained women as elders. So, here’s how I approached it: 1) I met with the pastor to talk with him about their doctrine and distinctives. 2) I told him that I wanted to stick around for a while, but there were some things I disagreed with and asked if we could speak about those issues, which he was more than willing. 3) After discussing our differences, I told him that I promised to not be a trouble-maker and if he ever wanted me to preach, I would not preach on any of our differences. 4) I offered myself to serve any place that he felt comfortable. Over time, he had me teach Bible studies and preach on Sundays. When a new pastor came, I did the same thing with him, and he allowed me to serve in a similar way. But here’s what happened: the new pastor, after a couple of years, believed that I should start a new church that fit with my doctrines and distinctives…not because I was a problem, but because he thought our town needed a church like that. It was a remarkably humble attitude, but I believe that it was because of our joyful working together that allowed us to work together and have them be a huge part in planting CLF over 16 years ago.
- I think where we go wrong many times is that we start making “open-handed” issues, “closed-handed” issues. We start criticizing one another over things that don’t need criticism. But I also think it’s just as critical to not take the “closed-handed” issues seriously. If we got those issues correct, it would make our discussion over the “open-handed” issues much clearer.
- Let me say one last thing on this: so many folks take the approach that says, “well, if we never talk about where we disagree, we’ll be in unity together.” I actually think differently than this. I think we should speak about where we agree…and talk about where we disagree. This will allow us to not unintentionally run roughshod over each other and we could learn a lot from one another. Instead, we just don’t talk about this kind of stuff, no one knows where we stand on issues, and we’re left without hearing or appreciating other perspectives.
From the cheap seats:
- Look, I’m a Cowboys’ fan…I cannot pull for the 49ers…I’m sorry (not really)…plus, I like Andy Reid. His quote on Monday morning of this week about how he celebrated his AFC Championship was “I ate a cheeseburger and went to bed.” How can you not love that guy??
- The Astros…wow!
- I can feel it in the air, just around the corner…pitchers/catchers “Report!”
Finally, we’re going to have a great time at our Marriage Retreat this year. Please join us. Here’s the link to register: https://clfroseburg.com/marriage-retreat/.
I pray that you have a great week.