Steering our children towards defragmentation of the church

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Tirian, Sep 19, 2013.

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  1. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    I worshipping in an area where there are two to three small reformed churches within 10 minutes drive of one another. We drive past one to go to the church we worship at.

    It pains me to think we have three denominations so close and yet completely isolated.

    It really seems sad that we often seem to hold on to our distinctives more closely than we do the things we have in common, and all too often resort to fragmenting the church further to resolve issues.

    I get the impression that breaking down barriers is all good and well as long as "they" join "us"

    Is it good for us to be so fragmented? So many denominations with so little that separates us?

    Should anything be done about it? Is it too hard to strive for fewer? Do we leave it in the too hard basket and leave it to our little ones to sort out - assuming something is to be done about it?

    What would you consider is too much to give up for more unity in he visible church?
     
  2. nwink

    nwink Puritan Board Sophomore

    In some situations, I could actually see the situation you described as being a good thing when there are a few reformed churches rooted in a few different communities. In a large city I used to live in, there were many different reformed churches and all in their own communities -- I trust that increased the local influence of each of these churches rather than if we all joined to make one megachurch. And all the reformed churches actually met together for special services/events and conferences, which led to building relationships with others in these other denominations. I think this is one example of how believers can still hold on to distinctives they deem important, yet still have fellowship with others from different reformed denominations.
     
  3. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    The short answer:
    When we give up a concern for truth, we give up too much.

    The expanded answer:
    I believe the Reformed church is too fragmented. I also believe much of the reason for this is our pigheaded refusal to humble ourselves when we discover areas in which we disagree. However, the primary danger the thinking of this age poses to our children is not a tendency to be too fragmented, but rather a tendency to say truth does not matter. The wider culture constantly tells our kids that we should set aside discussions about what is true (because who really knows the truth, anyway?) in favor of a fake "unity" based on ignoring differences.

    We must teach our kids that truth does matter. This does not mean disagreements about the truth always ought to cause disunity. We should strive to be humble people who can deal with these differences without splitting up. But we must continue to strive for truth in the process; to assert that truth does matter and that we remained concerned for it.

    Believers who disagree about what is true ought to be able to disagree and, in many cases, still remain together. They should, in many cases, submit in some fashion to each other even when they believe the other person is wrong about some bit of truth. But they must remain concerned for truth. The moment they decide that what is true doesn't really matter, they go too far.
     
  4. GloriousBoaz

    GloriousBoaz Puritan Board Freshman

    That's the church I just came out of.

    So I agree with a lot of what Jack said but am still personally wrestling out the "how does that actually look" factor in my life. For instance how many of you would covenantally bind yourself to a non WCF church?

    Where i'm at right now is that I'd consider RC sproul a brother anyday and glean from him tremendously but I wouldn't attend his church (myself being a credo) unless it was a last resort. Same with the guys from Rebel's Cause Radio, i disagree with some of their teaching but would gladly fellowship with them anyday, but i'm not likely to commit myself to one of their churches and submit to their church's leadership as a member if i believe they are wrong on some, albeit "secondary" but very crucial issues. I'm curious how you guys see this issue.
     
  5. jambo

    jambo Puritan Board Senior

    What is it about the church that you drive past that stops you from attending it?
     
  6. Shawn Mathis

    Shawn Mathis Puritan Board Sophomore

    Since your situation is vague, I can only offer vague suggestions:

    1. Think and write and plan on what you can do to foster closer relationships with the other churches. If your children are older, involve them in it. Include prayer for those churches. Teach your children a loving attitude toward sister denominations.

    2. Ask your session what you can do to foster closer relationships.

    3. Don't assume that a single large church is necessarily better than three small ones (see other posts above).
     
  7. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The obvious fact is that a person cannot be in two places at once. Considering brethren so as to provoke them to love and good works will entail commitment to a group of people. Where division exists this will mean that one group of people is favoured at the expense of another. Dividing commitment between both will only result in a failure to commit properly to either.

    There are systemic issues which have created divisions and occasional fellowship does little to nothing to address those issues. At best occasional fellowship might influence some to think about the issues which divide, but often this can undermine the particular stand which a church has taken and can result in tension and further division. Perceiving this, an occasional fellowshipper will then feel pressure to leave off discussing these issues, and so nothing effective is done towards healing.

    Exercising oneself to have a good conscience towards God and men requires one to search out the issues which divide and come to a conscientious decision as to where one stands and to act accordingly. "Reformation ends not in contemplation but in action." It will be very hard for an individual to seek God's blessing on himself or his family while he acts contrary to conscience because he will stand in doubt or condemnation on his own actions. This is why Presbyterians have emphasised the marks of the true church, the reality of more or less pure churches, and the need to join oneself to the church with which there can be "one accord."

    We are bound into the circumstances of Providence, and must look to God to heal divisions in the use of the means which He has appointed. Any other remedy will be slight and have long term consequences which might prove more detrimental than the initial problem.

    The best thing one can teach a child is that the Christian faith is non-negotiable and that salvation is to be sought in God blessing the pure means of grace.
     
  8. Free Christian

    Free Christian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hello Peter, GloriousBoaz. Those issues you raised are exactly the ones I have come up against in the past. Whenever I turned my eye from the things that were wrong, not just different but against the Bible wrong, I felt I was weakening and becoming something else. My conscience would keep at me, "what are you doing this for?" I get cultural differences, but not spiritual or Biblical ones where they go against the Word. For example I was in a church that refused to sing Psalms, not because they knew no different but refused when given the opportunity to, and also had a woman elder who you had to show respect to in certain ways as being one. I couldn't stay. If I did I would have had to do two things. Go along with not singing the Psalms, and either stand in respect to her as an elder or refuse to do so when everyone else did and in their eyes show disrespect in the church during services. I asked the minister why there was one and he agreed that it should not be so. In other words, instead of fixing it and making it right he let it be until she either died or retired from the position. Who was he doing the right thing by, her or God? I have been to other numerous churches where other things were blatant disregard for what God says to do and men doing what they wanted to do. I would ask them why it says this but you do that? Never once did I get a proper answer, sometimes it was "oh well, that's what the people want, or if it was changed they wouldn't come" Things like that. It prompted me years a go to write a small book sort of thing which I didn't get printed but made photo copies of. It was called "The Modern churches VS the Bible" I sent it to many churches not only in Australia but overseas too, to their main headquarters so to speak. I would ask them one thing, "after reading this please If I am wrong then could you please correct me using the Bible, Gods Word". Because if I was wrong I was heading over a spiritual cliff to destruction, true? And if a minister received and read that would it not be nice to advise the person who asked that, one way or another? If you thought they were wrong, me, wouldn't it be a ministers duty to help the person asking, to point them on the right path as a Christian? I never ever, ever, got 1 single reply.
    So I too wrestle with the modern churches in regards to, do I compromise? I don't. False peace and false harmony for the sake of it is just that, false. There is, to me, something seriously wrong with a church that refuses to do just the simple basics of what is outlined in Gods Word when confronted with the oppertunity to correct or change it! In ignorance I can sort of get, but not knowingly. I would prefer to worship with two people in truth than with a multitude in falsehood and compromise.
     
  9. GloriousBoaz

    GloriousBoaz Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks for your response Brett, it means a lot. I think I caught you talking about that dilema with the woman elder, standing to honor her position, in another thread unless that was someone else's thread lol. Yeah I would have left or spoke up, either way no lukewarmness or middle ground. Though I will say that I have been in tons of situations over the years where I haven't spoke up (and a lot where i spoke up too soon or out of line) . For instance I was street evangelizing by myself and i decided to pop into a catholic cathedral for no apparent reason and there were about 20 people in there worshipping Mary, loudly! (more than most for evangelical midweek prayer meeting sadly) but I felt a strong urge to just stand up and preach but I chickened out. But there is grace and learning in those situations.

    That booklet you wrote you wouldn't happen to be able to send me a pdf or something i'd love to glance through that.

    my recent history is nuts when it comes to the church I was attending. I was saved in a strong exegetical Calvary Chapel church and stayed in it for a long time, I was the most edified in the homegroup with my family but the preaching was very strong on Sunday too. I started going to one closer though and they changed the name and some other stuff changed. It's hard to speak badly about them in certain areas, their zeal to love and serve is unparalleled, and they aren't dummies with doctrine but just too many little things were off. Here's my quick break down, not to pull the tread off topic but I think it is relevant because I am continuing fellowship with them but not attending services or endorsing the ministry outright in any way.

    1. They confused Sanctification and Justification constantly. Often leaping in and out of definitions for each one without distinguishing.
    2. They are anti extra biblical and very anti confessional and tradition, which tends in someways to lead to an anti intellectualism
    3. They are emergent in the relevantistic sense and the entertainment driven worship music sense
    4. They are anti rebuke, and therefore hyper grace and therefore semi Antinomian (especially with their doctrine that sanctification is exactly the same in all ways as justification)
    5. and then fairly standard but must be said, they were against taking sides on the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate as they see it as paradox or mystery, unknowable to humans how predestination and freewill work and think its unnecessarily divisive, and so they were semi ecumenical as the pastor has said multiple times from the pulpit that "I used to have many divisions and problems with people over secondary issues and the older I get in the faith (he's a failrly young pastor) I find myself realizing I shouldn't have fought over all those but rather united under the primary issues" (very rough paraphrase). Which I asked a deacon there why it is they make statements like that a lot but don't really ever clearly define "primary" and "secondary" issues. Then I said what about baptism? and he said "I'd consider that a secondary issue" to which I said "oh so you're cool with baptismal regeneration" and he said " I see your point". As RC Sproul said "If it is the women's prerogative to change her mind it is the theologian's prerogative to make distinctions (not divisions but distinctions)"

    So that's a few of the doctrinal problems, but the rest is more things I would put in the category of "new church growing" or "there's no perfect church". I've just been listening through and praying through their sermons on my knees and praying for direction for God's will (am I to write them like you did, or have a chat with them, His will; His timing). It's frustrating especially because my conscience is forcing me to burn some bridges right now. But if it is between an anti Christ system of ecumenism or "I did not come to bring peace but a sword" I would rather divide. But not without much prayer and weeping and wrestling with God and compassion and dialog with others.
     
  10. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    It's not that there are a few, it's more that we are 3 small/tiny congregations each from a different denomination - but all faithful in the preaching of God's word. Like you I'm not interested in a mega church - just grieving that we have so, so many subtle yet completely separated flavors of reformed witness.

    As for inter-denominational fellowship - it is non-existent. We may as well be on different planets. I'm guessing this isn't unusual. But it is wrong. I'm positing that we need to change this, and in many cases it will be pride at the heart of divisions over non-essentials.
     
  11. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore


    Amen brother your post was very helpful.

    I'm not trying to champion reckless ecumenicalism - but I do feel we are far more fragmented than we should be. You've answered the question directly - giving up concern for truth. If we remain committed to seeking and knowing the truth and differ on some things yet fail to submit to one another, then pride brings division. How do we reverse that where practical?
     
  12. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Nothing at all, except my covenant of membership to the church we do go to and the fact that God has knitted our hearts to those of the saints there. The brethren at the church we pass are very dear to me!
     
  13. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks Shawn. I appreciate the advice and we have certainly encouraged our kids to form and maintain friendships with the kids from all the local reformed churches.

    I'm not concerned about small church communities in any given place at all - just that we (the church, not my area in particular) tend make such a hard distinction over distinctives that we fracture into small denominations. Those fractures prevent any meaningful fraternal relationships and unless we change it I only hope our children are better at it than we are!
     
  14. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks Pastor Winzer. Wise counsel.

    Your use of the word "heal" was really helpful in capturing the essence of what needs to occur. When you say we must "look to God to heal divisions" in the use of the means He has appointed I am wondering how passive we should be in that.

    I'm not calling for a group hug, but real renovation of relationships that have led to the plethora of reformed denominations that we have. Do we just wait for God to do something or should we be prayerfully advancing the cause?

    Your comment "The best thing one can teach a child is that the Christian faith is non-negotiable and that salvation is to be sought in God blessing the pure means of grace." is very helpful. Thanks.
     
  15. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    How do we reverse that? Tough question. Joining two churches seems to be more difficult than splitting one, doesn't it. I'd love to hear from someone on the board who's been part of a successful joining of congregations, especially across denominational lines.

    I've been part of a church that joined two services (contemporary- and traditional-styled services were joined into one) and one that started holding an occasional joint service with a church across town. In both cases, there were several unhappy people within the congregation. I suspect a joining of congregations would generally require:
    - Strong, committed leadership on the part of the pastors involved, who in turn get the commitment of the elders.
    - An understanding that some people (including some vocal and influential ones) will be unhappy... and a commitment not to let that derail things.
    - A spiritual engagement by each congregation that includes humbling themselves, becoming eager to love others, giving up how-I-like-it, etc. Frankly, not all churches are spiritually ready to undertake a merger because these spiritual qualities, while given lip service, are not actually deeply valued and regularly pursued in many churches. The Epistles tell us that unity is a spiritual matter, right?

    I suspect, in most cases, those elements would be necessary. What do you think?
     
  16. Free Christian

    Free Christian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hi again Peter. Ill start a new thread so as not to seem to be taking this one off track. Sorry anyone if it seems I did.
     
  17. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    I would think merger would be a result of issues of viability of one or both congregations. If you have two healthy congregations, there's no reason to merge - there may be benefits from pooled efforts toward local mission, but there's no reason to go through the pain of a merger if you don't have to.

    As far as denominations, I think NAPARC is probably a better model than organic merger at this point.

    And when a thread develops on PB on the merits of small churches versus huge churches, there aren't many of us who advocate for the larger congregations.
     
  18. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    It's an eschatalogical thing. When all the possible 3, 4, & 5 letter combinations are used up for Reformed denominations, the tree will be green... :D
     
  19. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Just to clarify again - I am only talking about denominations not congregations. I think congregations that enable real Christian fellowship are to be desired. I'll have to look up NAPARC - I am unfamiliar with it.
     
  20. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    I suspect that this is at the heart of the issue - as you say it requires humbling ourselves. Again, I am not so concerned about congregations merging, but reducing the number of reformed denominations. There will always be people who are [choose your] denomination first, Christian second - but we need to address those heart issues in love too.

    I'm wondering if we are all too proud to make this a reality, and hence my opening post - for those who would like to see a less fractured reformed witness, is it just too hard? Do we just submit to the idol of pride and handball this to the next generation? I'd like to think not!

    Rev. Winzer said only God can heal these separations - I'm agree, but I'm also thinking about Peter's exhortation to "be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure". Just like Peter's exhortation, surely we have a responsibility to prayerfully seek defragmentation to commence in our lifetimes...
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  21. Felkon

    Felkon Puritan Board Freshman

    This is something I've thought about also, and would love to see a day when all Christian denominations can come together in peace and move together towards truth together. I'm always reminded of the passage where Paul says:

    Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).

    I believe that we Christians should be able to come together on the basis of our faith in Christ. The doctrines that are taught explicitly in Scripture are ones that should be held as truths, and any disagreement with such explicit doctrines is heresy. Regarding doctrines not explicitly taught in Scripture, we should not be divided in the sense that we abandon one another and create factions, but that we remain united while acknowledging that we will have disagreements since we are human beings with limited and fallible knowledge. It would be a beautiful thing if we could all ponder the things of God together, since truth of still of great importance, correcting one another not for the purpose of proving our theological superiority but for the purpose of renewing our minds constantly in the light.

    But the reality usually shows that humans are prone to take things personally, create factions and thus enemies, not able to accept that we are wrong (if we are on the receiving end of correction) or desiring to be "greater" than others (if we are on the side of giving correction) and both cases show lack of humility. Let us teach our children to not be this way.
     
  22. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    This is a subject that annoys me to no end. On what biblical grounds can a person/couple/family skip over a local church which is orthodox?

    We have this problem in our town where close to 15 people (that I am aware of) drive physically passed our church building to go to larger Presbyterian churches in surrounding communities, for what can only be described as pragmatic reasons (i.e. - more programs and people). You don't think our church could benefit from having the orthodox confessional Presbyterian folks who live in our town attending with their own local community rather than drive 15-30 minutes to go to other orthodox and confessional Presbyterian churches?
     
  23. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Matthew, I don't think it needs to be passive at all. Loving as brethren with courtesy and humility; having the openness to encourage, instruct, warn, and reprove one another in the Word and by the Spirit; desiring to co-operate as much as possible in the work of the Lord, to strengthen each other's hands, and to join in the pure worship of God as opportunity is given -- if these were all actively pursued with submission to God's will and dependence on His blessing, I am inclined to think the work would progress in a sure and steady way. What retards it is the setting up of personalities as pre-eminent, or being averse to search the Scriptures together and share one's faith with each other, or being jealous over one's own work as if it were more important than anything else, or setting up one's own methods as somehow an improvement on God's own ordinances. If the church, called by God's name, would humble themselves, turn from their evil ways, and pray earnestly for God's grace and forgiveness, He would certainly hear from heaven, heal these divisions, and bless us with the power of His Spirit.
     
  24. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    You need to start by looking at whether there is a legitimate basis for the separation. If the PCA and OPC were separate only because they come out of different cultural traditions and they don't want to lose their heritage, then the separation wouldn't be legitimate. But to the extent that the OPC bases its independence on a legitimate concern about the looseness in subscription and discipline found in parts of the PCA, then the opposition to merger should be respected.

    And in another direction, both the ARPs former distinctive (exclusive Psalmody) and current distinctive (deaconesses) would militate against merger with either the OPC or PCA.

    So while I would certainly encourage expanded cooperation under the NAPARC banner, attempts at organic union would likely just lead to additional splits (note what happened when the bulk of the RPC,ES merged (pardon, that should be joined, not merged) with the PCA a few decades ago.)
     
  25. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

    I want to agree with you but most "American" Presbyterian churches are far more "orthodox & confessional" on paper than they are in practice. I have to pass 2 ARPs & a PCA to get to the FCC we are a part of. I wish I could worship in my own local community but we simply do not have any "orthodox & confessional" Presbyterian churches... If the government required me to worship in my own local community, I would have to attend forbidden open air worship services held by the Covenanters. ;)
     
  26. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

    You make a great point. Joel Beeke once said that the biggest problem with trying to make two denominations one, is that it doesn't make one but three!
     
  27. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    This cuts me to the heart. I need to pray.
     
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