Denominations and Divisions: A Rethink

This post has been an interesting one to write. I started it months ago, raging and being angry at the divisions that have appeared in the church. There are hundreds of different denominations, and this annoyed me. Yet I believe God has shown me something else recently.

Jesus had to deal with sectarianism with his disciples:

“‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us…’” (Mark 9:38-40).

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25). 

Now, division in the church has been a problem. There are too many times that the church has divided over something ridiculous. We can be too busy, debating the finer points of Calvinism, what colour the church-door should be, whether we should have pews or not; lost in ‘meaningless talk’ (2 Timothy 2:16). To be honest, Brothers and sisters, we should focus on what we have in common: Christ is everything. The Gospel is everything. Hymnbooks or projectors, Baptist or Presbyterian, AV or NIV are all irrelevant.

Nonetheless, we will disagree; we are, after all, human, but there is a blessing in these denominations. We have found comfort in those who believe the same we do — in how we sing a song, or how the service should be structured. It does help us to focus our lives on Christ more when these divisions are removed. Denominations aren’t necessarily bad! We just shouldn’t take pride in the one we belong to, and should always be willing to talk to other churches, and to share and pool resources together too for evangelism, children’s work, financial needs, etc.

We will always think differently on secondary issues, but they should never get in the way of communion with one another and NEVER should one church think it is better than the rest. That is just pride. As believers, let us build bridges; let us be that spark that cuts through these divisions. If we disagree on a secondary issue then let us deal with it in love and humility. But let us focus on Jesus and the cross more than ever!

Richard Motte once declared that, ‘There is not a single Quaker, Presbyterian, Methodist or Baptist in heaven.’ Pausing before his no-doubt stunned listeners to add, ‘For in heaven God knows no such distinctions.’ We will be one singing glory to God always. Let that start now, on earth, not later, not tomorrow, but now. Let us be bold in prayer and ask God for strength that this may be achieved.

So, I don’t care about your church background, if you know Jesus died for your sins and that He rose again on the third day, if you believe that grace covers all your sins, then I will call you brother or sister and let us celebrate together what He has done for us all!

Unity, brothers and sisters, unity. Dear God, I pray that for those who read this have a flame set in their hearts for unity. May Your will be done and may we see the church following You, may we see a church actually living for You and not for itself. May You lead all Your people, regardless of background to Your kingdom, and may You use us to bring men and women into Your kingdom. Amen.

Bible Study: Looking at Titus 1

Note from Michael and Josh: Whilst we still intend to cover some of the big contemporary issues of the day; we are looking to populate the blog with a series of more regular shorter updates of Bible passages that speak to us, snapshots of our day-to-day lives, quotes and other juicy titbits that might be of benefit to our readers.

At my Church, a few men are meeting with two aims: (1) to study the word; and (2) to socialise, to get to know each other better. In our Bible readings we are learning about Titus and about doing good. Today, I want to briefly talk about the qualities of being an ‘elder’.

Titus 1:5-9: just for elders?

The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (Titus 1:5-9).

Great passage is it not? But do we read this and think this is only for elders in the church? Do we by pass it because we think it is not relevant for us? Whether you’re male, female, elder, deacon, new believer, old believer, this passage should be speaking to us.

First we must consider the context, Paul is writing these qualities, because the church there is struggling with what is going on around it, the church needed elders who would direct the church to be Holy and upright in the sight of the world and God. The church was in such a state, that Paul starts the rebuilding process from the top.
But does this mean that these qualities are only for the elders? No, these are qualities every believer needs be striving for. We all need to be self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined, and Paul speaks to us directly. If we expect these qualities of other men, why shouldn’t we expect it of ourselves? Elders need to be wise, they do need to know their doctrine and they need to lead, and it is a calling, but we are all called to take a role in our local church, in ministry, and we all should reflect Christ, which these qualities do.

A word, that we perhaps overlook in this passage is ‘hospitable’ and it is a word that crops up quite a few times in the New testament. As Christians, we should be hospitable, kind, caring, helping others, putting others first, loving and generous; we should indeed love what is good. I don’t know about you, but it can sometimes be hard to do such things. Hard to love those who hate you, kind to others even on a bad day, hospitable to those around you, the list goes on, and I think, if we believe that God works in us, then we must strive to do good, to LOVE to do what is good, and not do it because it is a ‘command’.

Sometimes we may think some passages are not relevant to us, but they are, and they are so important to look at and read and study. The church where Titus was located reflected the world, in its attitude (not in its equipment or technology), Paul writes the letter to tell the church to wake up, to reflect Christ, not what is around it, to have different attitudes and values, to love what is good.

May we all have self-control, to be upright and holy, and be disciplined in all matters of our life, in our private times and when we doing things in public. Paul knows that the world would watch the elders of the church, the world watches you, so listen to his words and learn from them.

Be Blessed

Michael

Being a Balance

I was just chatting to Josh, literally a minute ago and this post came to me. Being a balance!   What do I mean by this? It all relates to me and my role in church. Confused? Well I intend to explain.

Being the contemporary Christian

When I find myself in a church that is a bit old school in how it does things, I tend to find myself being the ‘contemporary Christian’. Loving all the new modern songs, loving the new technology and all that. I tend to be defending the contemporary scene, and pushing for the church to embrace aspects of the contemporary scene. A church that stubbornly sticks to its old ways is at danger of putting tradition before the Bible, before God and before its community; a church can only be healthier with someone acting as a modern spokesman!

Being the old school Christian

When I am in a more contemporary church, singing the latest Matt Redman song, with lights and smoke machines, I tend to find I become the ‘old school Christian’, loving the hymns, the old school preaching in a suit and the like. I’m the one who likes to keep going on about how good the doctrine in hymns can be. A church is always at danger in putting the latest gadget or device or technique before God, before the Bible and before its faithful walk. A church can only be healthier if it remembers the lessons learnt by our forefathers and remember the key truths always.

Doesn’t that get frustrating for you and those round you?

Perhaps, you may have to ask them! In seriousness, if you approach these matters with a humble heart and don’t slam it all in everyone’s’ faces every time something is brought up; then I see no reason why it should prove frustrating. When we think of the church, we must be humble, ready to learn, happy to be corrected. Who knows, maybe by being the opposite it engages others with a conversation they may never had had!

What’s the point in this post?

Balance is the point. The church needs a balance. Going too far one way is always dangerous and not something I like to see, ‘only blockheads go to extremes’ C.H. Spurgeon wrote. The blog is all about balance and I guess it has kind of rubbed off on me. I love debating with Josh or whoever about scripture or church issues, I love seeing other view points, and I like to see balance in everything that is said.

We cannot be afraid of having different opinions, but we must always have a humble heart when we look at other people and other churches. We aren’t always necessarily right and it is always good to have a conversation in the right spirit.

So remember, try and maintain a balance and always try to have a humble heart!

How do we achieve this balance?

Let’s be frank, we can’t get it on our own, we need God’s help. Our ‘balances’ are ‘unbalanced balances’. ‘Balance’ is very often the buzzword of my discussions with Josh, yet a real balance is unachievable whilst we’re trying to do it alone. We always veer towards extremes, we’re too human. Our balance is too much of a pendulum; a brief moment in the middle when we’re swinging from one extreme to the other. We need a ‘divine balance’, we need God’s Holy Spirit to come down and take charge of our minds and senses — only then can we get that true balance.

The words of Jesus promise:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks fora fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:9-13 (NIV).

It feels like the church in our day is just running around in circles, trying this, trying that, without looking upwards, to heaven, to God.

“A false balance is a abomination to the Lord, a just weight is his delight” Proverbs 11:1 (ESV).