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Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Train of Thought

As I've stated before, I came to Colossians 3 for the wrong reason. Originally, I wanted to share that the common ECM neglect of teaching on heaven and hell can have negative consequences on every day life. We are encouraged to consider eternity.
Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Above could be considered a reference to heaven; certainly Christ's presence there supports this. The contrast with "earth" in verse two also lends one to think that Paul is calling us to think "heavenly thoughts." Though the passage wouldn't make the point as well as other passages, the heaven reference seemed to allow this passage to be usable. Except one phrase kept screaming out at me:

Where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Paul was not merely telling the Colossians to think about heaven, in fact, he wasn't telling them to focus on heaven at all. He was telling them to think of heaven because Christ is there. And not only is he there, but He is seated at the throne of God. Paul says that this is the answer to our problems with legalism. We will avoid legalism, not by overreacting and going toward lawlessness, but by focusing on the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And after calling the church to focus on Christ's Lordship, Paul calls them to disciplined action (3:5-17). Clearly a focus on His Lordship prevents antinomianism as well.

And that is where the debate just got hotter. Suddenly the issues of concern are no longer just how one person handles this one isolated text, it becomes an issue of their focus on the Lordship of Jesus. We're not just dealing with how one wants to "do church," we suddenly find ourselves discussing who is in charge of the church. This is the prevelant issue for us all.

Next Stop, Emerging/Emergent Church--Am I concerned that many in the ECM have diminished (or denied) heaven, hell and the atonement. I once thought that those three issues were unrelated. However, I think these three denials come from the same source. The throne room of God is located in heaven. Ultimate judgment is exercised when considering hell. And the atonement through Christ declares our helplessness and utter dependence upon Him. Neither of these three topics can be addressed without acknowledging the Lordship of Christ.

But this stop is actually where I'm allowing ECM to detrain. They're welcome to stay along for the ride but the focus will not remain on them.

For the FGBC--I was reminded this week to keep the vision that we are a Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. Each church is autonomous and seperate. There is no bishop overseeing things and every national organization serves the churches, not vice versa. It would be inaccurate to say the whole fellowship is traveling in a certain direction or to speak with broad generalizations. In fact, while I am concerned about some trends I see "advertised" about some churches, my primary concern goes even before that. How are we doing with the fellowship part?

And this is where it gets terrifying. I was practically born in this fellowship. I have spent 28 of my 31 years in a Grace Brethren Church (and the three that were outside the fellowship were under the leadership of a GTS trained man). I did NAC and Bible Quizzing. I attended BNYC religiously. I participated in Operation Barnabas. I pursued my education at Grace College. My first pastoral position was in a Grace Brethren Church in the Chesapeake District. I then went to serve with a speaking ministry headed up by a Grace Brethren pastor. With this ministry, I traveled to many of the churches in our fellowship. When I couldn't stand being out of pastoral ministry any longer, I left the speaking ministry and got plugged back into the pastorate of a church in our fellowship. I love our fellowship.

But, in my ten years of pastoral experience, it does not seem that our fellowship has a very good track record with disagreeing. I was only in high school when the "conservative split" took place, but I have heard enough stories to know that both sides had moments that could not be described as civil. It's safe to say we love the Lord, we love His church and our hearts break for the lost. When we discuss how to do those things, it's obviously going to get emotional.

However, just as dangerous is to sit back and decide, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Avoiding issues or ignoring practices is really contrary to the dynamics of a fellowship.

Danny, are you saying that fellowship churches are acting in ways that deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ?

Short answer: yes.

Before you pray an imprecatory prayer in my direction or throw your keyboard through your screen...take a deep breath. Let's be honest, there are numerous ways in our own lives, and in each of our churches, where we fail to declare Christ as Lord in our actions. None of us have obtained perfect obedience. But hopefully, when each of us are confronted with our shortcomings, we acknowledge it and look to correct, either with our personal lives or our church. Each of us has room for improvement.

Therefore, in the coming posts, I want to look at some elements of Christ being Lord. From time to time, I will probably juxtapose these thoughts with current practices, either from within fellowship churches, or even the greater Christian community. I am not claiming that a church that engages in a practice I struggle with is actually an instrument of Satan. I am not calling for their removal from our fellowship. I am merely saying I struggle to understand how the practice is not contrary to their intention to declare Jesus as Lord.

I've been told this is dangerous territory. I've been told the problem with other situations is that people do this outside of the context of relationships. I've been told to sit back and get to know guys better. I hope this blog is not viewed as bypassing relationships, I hope to develop more and more meaningful relationships over time. I actually hope this blog can enhance that process.

I'm a fairly young pastor (though the gray hair keeps saying otherwise), with a young family. My time is limited with responsibilities in my home and my church. Our church is fairly young and I'm still trying to figure out how to shepherd the people plus the wonderful staff the Lord has blessed me with. I try to remain fairly active in our district activities as well. But I sense that most of the other pastors are feeling the same tension I am. We'd love to know each other better, but when?

I know these posts have taken a long time to get moving. The train is almost ready to leave the station, but there may be a few more instructions before our departure. The journey may be smooth or quite bumpy, I have no idea. But I'd like it to be productive, so that's why I've proceeded with such caution. I've probably moved more slowly than necessary and I hope I have not created some undue anxiety. (The feedback I have received to this point has been tremendously helpful, so keep it coming. You're helping me mold these thoughts as I work through them.) If I've been stretching your patience, I greatly appreciate your grace.

We'll be picking up steam soon enough, and I assume the discussion will get rolling. Are you on board?


  • At 7:46 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    I think you might find this article encouraging. It's pretty short


  • At 7:49 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    Couldn't fit it in. Had to insert some spaces. Is there an easier way to do this?


  • At 8:06 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i think brad means:

    check this out.

    it is a great post and was a great encouragement...thanks brad.

  • At 9:19 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    Ah, yes. Thanks for translating.

  • At 10:05 PM, Blogger Journeyman said…


    A tall order...that of determining in all things and in all areas for everyone in all places the "Lordship of Jesus Christ."

    Let me suggest a starting point that consists of two seemingly paradoxical realities.
    1. If you want to explore this issue from within a FGBC frame of reference, your approach is not narrow enough.
    2. If you want to explore this issue from within a FGBC frame of reference, your approach is not broad enough.

    By your own admission, having spent 28+ years in the fellowship says a lot about your commitment to things biblical and you are to be commended for that. However, by your own admission, having spent 28+ years in the fellowship also displays a limit to what your vision of what the true church is all about. Both are “dangerous” as you put it, if kept separate. I think that in order for our search to bear fruit to Gods honor and to His Glory, we must first stay securely within the foundations that the Brethren heritage affords us, yet also recognize that that same heritage is not the end all and be all of what the "Lordship of Jesus Christ" really means and may look like. If we are willing to investigate the other great tradition/streams of the Christian life, i.e
    - the contemplative/prayer filled life
    - the virtuous/holiness life
    - the spirit-empowered/charismatic life
    - the compassionate/social justice life
    - the word-centered/evangelical life,
    then I’m fully convinced that we will have a more balanced vision of what faithful obedience to the Lord is all about. Each tradition is a vital part of what it means to live a well-orbed Christian life. Unfortunately, while we may be comfortable, acclimated, or interested in one or two, very few of us are strong in all of them. We are like the gymnast that is only proficient in one or two of the five events and thus can't compete for the overall championship. Such a person is not balanced in the gymnastic skills it takes to compete for the distinction of the best overall gymnast. Likewise, we are imbalanced and less effective in the Christian life if we are comfortable in, say, evangelicalism and the prayer filled life, yet lack the holiness and compassion of life in our dealings with each other and the world around us. Each stream of the Christian life-even our favorite one-will throw us out of balance if it is all we know and we try to stay within it exclusively. Balance, and being able to determine the answer to the "Lordship" question will come more fully into view when we strive to learn from the other traditions, and when we all begin to recognize their essential importance to a life well-lived before the face of God. Don’t be surprised then, when we get to Heaven and find others who are not from a strictly FGBC framework and theological orientation. The kingdom is at one and the same time both narrower and broader than any of us could possibly have imagined.
    Jesus said, “I am the gate; if any one enters through me, he will be saved.” That’s the narrow part. He further stated, “………and he will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
    That’s the broad part. - John 10:9.

    The Journeyman

  • At 12:14 PM, Blogger zachd said…

    Based on the last person's comment, I want to just to give a little "plug" for the FGBC. I may be wrong, but it seems that though earlier Brethren were more influenced by pietism, the FGBC has tried to maintain a balance between the pietist and puritan, a balance between emphasis on orthopraxy and orthodoxy (not to say these were mutually exclusive in any of the traditions mentioned). Someone more informed than I am may want to comment.

  • At 6:42 PM, Blogger Journeyman said…


    To be sure, I’m all in favor of being eternally grateful for the heritage we have that is in the FGBC. However, I do not have the need nor do I have the desire to “plug” any earthly organization in an effort to pass it off as the end all and be all of what the church is to look like, act like and believe. Dan raised the issue of how do we go about determining the Lordship of Christ within the fellowship and what will it look like given the fact of his limited yet faithful adherence to the FGBC. If I’m reading him correctly here, he called his attempt to determine TLOC from such a vantage point “dangerous.” He also used the prospect of that activity of determining TLOC as “terrifying.”
    All I wanted to do was give some sort of encouragement in his quest (and ours as well) by suggesting we all need to seek a balance in our approach to such issues as these and not loose sight of the forest for the trees.
    As to your reading of church history, it is true that the balance between personal practice of the faith (praxis) and the faith itself (doctrine) is a tension that all thru the ages, saints have struggled to maintain. How do I go about doing what the Scriptures so plainly teach and as my love for the Lord increases, to become more obedient and pleasing to Him. That has always been where the rubber meets the road so to speak.
    But to suggest that the Brethren movement was unique in this struggle and that all others before or since have not wrestled with these issues is to misunderstand our common experiences within the body of Christ. On an individual level we separate behavior and indicative at our own peril. Same is true on the corporate level as well. Hope you find this explanation helpful.

    The Journeyman

  • At 11:31 PM, Blogger BReformed said…

    This recent BMH article
    demonstrates clearly the lack of a proper Lordship


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