Friday, September 18, 2009


Todd Hunter has been a mentor to me for several years now. I have known him for over ten years and I love and respect him and consider him to be a wise and sincere brother in Christ. My own personal epiphany concerning the Gospel of the Kingdom was the direct result of a series of phone interviews I did with Todd for an article I was writing for Relevant Magazine a few years ago. (These interviews are both on my main blog). Since that time he has encouraged me, and provided practical wisdom for me during times when I needed guidance or advice about matters of faith.

Todd was recently interviewed by Christianity Today Magazine regarding his newest spiritual adventure as a Bishop in the Anglican Church. Todd Hunter is someone who started out in Calvary Chapel, and who played an instrumental role in the formation of the Vineyard movement, and who left that expression to coach church-planters in the Emerging Church. For many who have called Todd their mentor, like myself, this new step Todd is taking towards liturgical, traditional church is a confounding one. I don’t think I can express that in terms that are strong enough to convey the real impact on people who have, like me, looked to Todd as a spiritual leader for all these years.

This article does a good job of addressing the question and Todd’s answers are clear, but there’s still a very real disconnect for why Todd would choose to abandon the more organic expressions of faith he's participated in previously for the Anglican tradition.

On some levels it’s really none of our business. Todd can do whatever he wants and, clearly, he feels a genuine calling from God to become an Anglican Bishop and plant liturgical churches in America. Just because I may not agree with him, or understand the logic, doesn’t mean that God isn’t actually compelling Todd to move in this direction. If we look at the Scriptures we can see numerous times when God asks men and women to do things that make absolutely no sense to those around them. I can relate to that as someone who felt called to leave the traditional church and plant a house church where 100% of the money would go to help the poor in our community. There were many who didn’t understand (and still don’t) and who openly opposed me, dared me to do it (and fail), and branded me a heretic for my actions and for my stand against hierarchy in the church. What matters is, “Is God calling?” and “Will you obey?” and in Todd’s case it’s all between him and the Lord. I for one am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Still, reading this article I cannot help but feel compelled to interject some thoughts into what Todd says about the liturgy and about the Emerging movement (of whom I am not a participant, although I am often lumped into this group due to the fact that I do not embrace traditional church practice).

As you read my responses to these quotes, please understand I do not intend these as criticisms of Todd Hunter, whom I love as a brother in the Lord. My responses here are meant to provide a counter-point of sorts to some of the things that are said, if for no other reason than to attempt something like “equal time” for those who find themselves on the outside of traditional church and have made a conscious decision to step away from any denominational identity or division in favor of following Christ alone. To quote Lance Lambert, “I could no longer be a Baptist. I could only be a Christian. Anyone who follows Christ is a member of me and I am a member of him because there is only one Body and one Family of God.”

In the interview, Todd Hunter mentions “two big problems” with the Emerging movement. (I have my own problems with the movement but we’ll discuss those at another time). Todd’s problems with the Emerging movement are:

“First, the emergents are so sensitive to issues of community, relationship, egalitarianism, and being non-utilitarian in their relationships, that evangelism has simply become a synonym for manipulation—a foul ball, relationally. If you and I were work colleagues and I built a relationship in which I could influence your journey toward Christ, that would be considered wrong in these circles. I cannot be friends with you if I intend to lead you to Christ. “

As Todd points out, the Emerging Movement isn’t something you can “broad-brush”. It’s much too slippery to get a handle on enough to make any real, substantial criticisms, (which is one of my problems with it, but I digress).

In Todd’s response I would tend to agree, as he states it, but I would also agree with those who feel it’s manipulative to make friends for the purpose of evangelism. I guess I would amend Todd’s statement to say, “I cannot be friends with you only because I intend to lead you to Christ.” It’s the recruitment motive that bothers me, and I think a few others, when it comes to targeting people as conquests rather than learning to love people no matter what their faith, or whether or not they eventually become followers of Jesus. I think what has to be intentional is our love of others, not evangelism itself. I believe in intentionally loving someone and praying for God to reveal Himself to them, but I do not believe in intentionally targeting someone simply to convert them to my faith.

One helpful question I believe we should ask is, “Am I willing to be someone’s friend for the rest of my life, even if they never convert to my faith?” If at any point in the relationship I would abandon the friendship and move on to a better prospect then, I believe, we’re not really fulfilling the Lord’s command to love others. Love isn’t conditional. It should remain and be sustained regardless of whether or not it is reciprocated. Love should continue apart from agreement on matters of faith.

Todd’s second problem is the one I take the most issue with.

“Second, after 10 or 12 years of the emerging church, you have to ask where anything has been built. Evangelism has been so muted and the normal building of structures and processes hasn't moved forward because there's no positive, godly imagination for doing either evangelism or leadership.”

Where do I even begin to respond to this? Perhaps I am misunderstanding him. I don't think I am but if so, I look forward to apologizing later. However, as I read this it seems that Todd’s second problem with the Emerging faith isn’t based on their lack of spiritual fruit. He doesn’t say that, “…after 10 or 12 years of the emerging church you have to ask where the fruit is.” Instead, he has a problem with them for not building structures. He says, “…the normal building of structures and processes hasn’t moved forward because there’s no positive, godly imagination for doing either evangelism or leadership.”

Really? What we should expect to see from a healthy understanding of evangelism and leadership is an $11 million dollar church building? Not followers of Jesus who make disciples of others? Not a deeper love for Christ? Not the fruit of the Spirit but….”the normal building of structures and processes.”

The Church in America spends billions of dollars on itself every year. Mainly on the building of structures and the financial support of leaders. I would hardly call that “Church for the sake of others” as Todd often refers to it. That seems like Church for the sake of itself, to me.

I want to ask, “Can the Church be the Church, in all of its’ original Spirit-filled DNA of love for others and mission to the least, without buildings, or paid clergy?” I believe that if we look to the first 300 years of Christian history we will see that the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” In fact, the Church in most of the world today is more vibrant and missional and evangelistic than anything we see here in the West without any “normal building of structures and processes.”

If anything, I would question the use of the word “normal” in Todd’s response. What is normal? Shouldn’t the definition of normative Christian practice come from the New Testament? Why should the definition of “normal” come from our man-made human traditions? Isn’t that part of what Jesus was critical of the Pharisees about? (Matt 15:3-9)

I’ve already written at length about how the New Testament expression of Church differs from our man-made traditions. Simply put, the Old Testament prophesies that the Messiah would build the Temple of the Lord. (Zechariah 6, 2 Sam 7, etc.) When Jesus came there was already a Temple in Jerusalem. So, what did he build? In fact, Jesus went to the Temple in Jerusalem and prophesied that it would be destroyed (and it was) and that he would build it up again (speaking of the temple of his body). This was fulfilled at the cross when Jesus laid down his life for us and then resurrected from the dead. However, it was also fulfilled when his Body (the Church) was built into a house of living stones and a new temple of God was formed-(Eph 2:20, Heb 3:5, 1 Cor 3:16, etc.).

In the New Testament expression of faith, the new Temple is the Body of Christ, the Church. We are the only building God is interested in building. We are the new priesthood. We are the fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel that God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh (men and women, Jew and Gentile, Slave and Free). We are now the place where the Glory and Presence of the Living God dwells. Not in a house of stone built by men, but in a house of flesh filled with the Holy Spirit of the Living God. We are the fulfillment of the promise that one day no one will ever seek for the Ark of the Covenant, because it is now only an empty box.

“And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more" - Jeremiah 3:16

Why is the Ark no longer remembered or visited? Because the presence of Almighty God now resides in each and every one of us.

Why was the veil torn in two at the moment Christ said, "It is finished"? Wasn't it to seal the end of one expression (a physical temple and singular expression of God's presence) and the beginning of a new one (a living temple of human followers with an exponential expression of God's presence in each one of them)?

Why do we continually go back and repair the veil in the Temple?
The Church is not a building and we do not need a building to be the Church.
I believe it’s one of the most powerful and liberating truths of the Gospel of Christ, that you and I are the Temple of God and that there is no longer any need for any man-made temple to be built.

Of course, my disagreement with Todd’s theology also extends to a difference of opinion when it comes to leadership and clergy. Again, I probably don’t need to repeat my arguments here, but in essence the early church had no clergy class of Christian. Every baptized believer in Christ was empowered, authorized and expected to baptize new believers, share communion, preach the Gospel, and actively participate in the function of the Body. The first letter of Paul to the church in Corinth is pretty clear on the fact that there are many gifts which are given by the one Spirit to the Body for the building up of the Church. He does not say that there are many gifts given to one man for the healthy function of the Body (which is what we have in our traditional church today).

So, I find a few things to disagree with in this article, although I still love and support Todd Hunter and I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that God has indeed called him to pursue this new direction.

What I agree with Todd about is that people today are looking for a faith to practice, not so much a religion to join or a church to belong to. Of course, not everyone feels this tug towards faith in practice, but I do see a large, and growing number of Christians gravitating towards the practice of authentic Christianity in their actual lives. As much as Todd fans that desire into flame I am with him and I support that activity.

I also agree with Todd on the concept of faith in Christ as the starting line and not the finish line. There is a very real need to change our culture in America away from salvation as a goal and towards salvation as the beginning of a life lived under Christ as Lord. For that I am with him as well and I applaud his efforts to change the way we think of evangelism, discipleship and the Gospel of the Kingdom.

I understand that Todd wants to use liturgy as a tool to help Christians understand how to live out their faith and practice following Jesus, however I think it’s better to allow them to understand their place as members of the priesthood of all believers rather than to be the one leader who does all the teaching, leading and modeling for them. At some point you have to allow the people to wear the vestments of a servant to one another – and even to you – in order to facilitate true discipleship and complete the circle of fellowship in the Body.

In the interview, Todd describes how he uses the liturgy as a tool to teach his church how to love and forgive- and this is helpful. (I think I was actually present the first time he did this). However, if you really want people to learn to love and relate to one another in the Body, I suggest that it’s better if everything they do is shared and relational, not just this one blip on the program where everyone says, “It’s time to be relational now”.

I also agree with Todd about the value of practical apologetics (our actual lives of faith in submission to Christ) versus verbal apologetics (engaging in debates with non-believers about who is more right or wrong). This is also something I can see we, as a Church, need to embrace more often. How we live our lives is very important. We are the “Proof of Concept” for the validity of our message. If we say, “Jesus loves you” but we’re not loving people ourselves, we make our message false. If we say, “Jesus can transform your life” but we ourselves are not any different from the world around us, we give people reason to doubt the validity of the Gospel.

I would also add that we cannot say to one another, “You are the Temple of the Holy Spirit” and then place so much emphasis on buildings and structures. We cannot say, “You are a member of the priesthood of believers” and then tell people they need a professional priest or clergy to embody all of the various gifts outlined in 1Corinthians 12. We cannot say, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all creatures, teaching them to obey all that (Jesus) has commanded” and then tell people to coerce their unsaved friends to come to us so that the Pastor can make a convert out of them. We cannot say, “Jesus is the head over all the Church” and then say, “Submit to the authority of your Pastor” when the New Testament tells all of us to submit to one another out of love and that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all Truth.

This article was sent to me by someone who has looked to Todd for spiritual direction, like me, for many years. He has also expressed confusion over these new developments in Todd’s life. My response to him was that I have ceased looking to men for spiritual wisdom or guidance and I have begun to seek the wisdom of Jesus and to re-discover the New Testament.

I am still blessed and inspired and encouraged by many brothers and sisters in the faith, including Todd Hunter, but these days I’ve begun to understand that God really is capable of revealing His will to me, and to His Body, apart from special, holy men. God is powerful enough to guide us Himself, and I am very interested in being part of a Church that embraces Him as the Head, and the actual leader.



banjarphile said...

My initial take on the "structures and processes" comment is that perhaps he is referring to the emergent movement as too 'unstructured'(read more organic) and thus lacks the focus for evangelism and leadership.
Of course Anglican polity seems steeped in the traditional approach to church.
It is very interesting and puzzling to see the pendulum swing back toward liturgy, but it makes some sense in considering the emergent movement's seeming disarray, lack of clear focus and sometimes even ADD-like approach to reaching the world for Christ.
Guess we'll have to take a wait and see attitude?

Frank Doiron said...

I also find it very troubling that Todd has done this. There are so many things to say about it. Having grown up in the Roman Catholic Church I can assure Todd that using liturgy in your church services does not transfer into loving one another once the mass is over. One part of the liturgy that was introduced in the sixties was turning around and offering a hand of peace. People would turn around and shake each others hand and say peace (it was the only time the mass had any relational touch to it... people actually smiled while doing it) but it did not lead to sacrificial love during the week. The only thing that will do that is to devote yourself to the apostles teaching as the article a few days earlier said.
Keith get used to it, unfortunately there is a huge attraction in people for Old Testament religion and/or spirituality. It is sad but true.
Particulary heartbreaking for me is when I saw a picture of Todd in his priestly robes. I could not believe it. I really hope he wakes up some day and shakes his head and says "I just had a bad dream."

Kieth its time for you to write a book called "Back to the Temple." There has to be a way of convincing people that temple spirituality is not God's way to draw closer to him.

Keith Giles said...

Frank - I am in the process of writing a book right now that I think is close to what you have in mind. It's tentatively called "Jesus Called. He Wants His Church Back"...or "Church (Un)Incorporated".

Either way I'll address the NT concepts of Temple and Priesthood.


Tracey Alan Sheneman said...

Are we not committing the error of not considering the plank in our own eye? Let's be careful where we tread here, as this is holy ground. There are virtues and drawbacks to both house churches and traditional church gatherings. I used to sit above the church in judgment instead of risking soiling my garments by engaging "organized religion". Alas, it was a fascade for me to avoid being my "brother's keeper" and helping others. I think that ultimately we each get out what we put in, and that includes house churches and conventional churches alike. And if a traditional church is not meeting the spiritual needs of the congregation it is failing its function. We are "one body with many members"; there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution that can meet the needs of all believers. And while the traditional church has a lot to answer for (I level plenty of criticisms on my blog), it is for some the place God has called them to serve. Yes, we can have our cake and eat it, too! Besides, God knows who belongs to him, in house churches or the traditional church.Freedom makes some uncomfortable but we are free nonetheless. Let's not put a stumbling block in each others' path. Praise God for this indescribable gift!

Tracey Sheneman

Keith Giles said...

Tracey, all I've done here is to respond to what Todd has said in his interview. I haven't attacked him or insulted him or condemned him in this response. In fact, I have done my best to honor him throughout the article for his past mentoring of me spiritually and for the things he currently stands for that I am in complete agreement with.

My criticsm is not so much of Todd as it is of Denominationalism and "Old Testament Christianity" itself.

What is Denominationalism? Is it from God or is it from man? You can't find Denominations in the Bible. Denominations are man-made divisions. The prayer of Jesus was that we would all be one, even as He and the Father were One.

I, like many others, have come to a place in my christian life when I can no longer be a Baptist, I can only be a Christian.

If the Body is ruled by its members we will only have Chaos - not Unity. Only when the Head is in total control will the Body have true Unity and become fully submitted to Christ- not to one of its own members or Body parts.

I cannot sit quietly while my brothers and sisters ignore the New Testament concepts of the Priesthood of all Believers - it's a large part of what Jesus died on the cross to purchase for us (Rev 5:9-10), and the Truth that we are now the Temple of God which the Messiah was prophesied to build (Zech 6:11-13).

Tracey Alan Sheneman said...

"Old Testament Christianity" is not a term I am familiar with. If by such you mean biblical fundamentalism, literalism, and male hierarchy then I agree with you 100%. I would not feel at home in that kind of environment. My problem is with the assumption that by embracing the Anglican communion Todd has betrayed the body of Christ. I just don't read it that way. I read the entire C.T. article and I am not convinced that Todd has done anything for which he need be ashamed. I'm not saying your post amounts to a personal attack on Todd's character. I am calling into question our response to a brother's expression of faith.

Keith Giles said...

What I mean by "Old Testament Christianity" is the practice of mixing Jesus with the Old Testament priesthood and temple system of worship.

So, we rebuild our Temples (buildings), we re-institute the formal Levitical form of Priesthood (where they are the keepers of the Word and the voice of God for the people), and we re-sew the veil and revert to a form of worship where God is in His Holy Temple and only the Holy Men of God may approach the Ark of the Covenant, etc.

This is what I see in denominational churches, and it's a direct contradiction to what Jesus was doing by the Cross and what the Apostles promoted and practiced in the formation of the New Testament Church.

The New Testament makes it very clear that the Spirit of God has now fallen on all flesh in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel (see Acts 2) and now the Temple of God which Jesus is building (His Church) has begun as every single baptized believer in Christ is now a part of the priesthood of all believers and the temple of the Holy Spirit - both individually and collectively.

You can't have it both ways. Either you are under an Old Testament form of Christianity (with Temples and Priests) or you are under the New Testament form of Christianity embodied by priests and living temples of God.

This isn't about Todd at all. It's about our ecclesiology and our practice of the Christian faith according to the revealed Word of God.

If I'm wrong about this, I would welcome someone to correct me.


Like a Mustard Seed said...

I would just chime in to say that "church" isn't something that exists as something to meet out spiritual needs... JESUS is the one who is there to meet all our spiritual (and other) needs! The church is really just those who look to Jesus to have their needs met. If we get that mixed up, then we are essentially looking to human beings (however they are organized) to do what only God can...

Ultimately it's not a debate over what kind of "expression" is more valid, it's a discussion of who we are in Christ, and how Christ has actually called us to live. Are we not all equal at the foot of the cross? Then let's not elevate certain people above the rest and adorn them with robes and titles... Has God really destroyed the physical temple, wanting to have relationship with us in every area of our lives? Then let's not continue building our own little "temples" in order to try and get closer to Him.

"Expression" seems to have become this ultimate barricade which we run behind to defend certain things. If we call something a form of "expression", then it must be deemed valid, and can't be criticized. But Jesus certainly called out many people in regards to their forms of religious "expression"...

Tracey Alan Sheneman said...

To avoid confusion and possible misrepresentation of fact, why doesn't someone just ask Mr. Hunter why he decided on Anglicanism, and if he considers himself "elevated" above the laity? I mean, go to the source instead of speculating or casting a cloud over the man's reputation. I intend to do just what I propose. BTW, I attend a UMC congregation, very traditional service with a progressive social theology. But what matters is loving one another with a clear conscience.


Keith Giles said...

Tracey - Please don't take personal offense at this. My article is not an attack on Todd. I've known him for years and I still love and respect him very much.

I agree, what matters is loving one another with a clear conscience. But does it not also matter that Jesus made us priests in His Kingdom? Does it not also matter that we are all the living temple of the Holy Spirit?

What are we to do with these truths? How are we to respond? Are we allowed to read God's Word and then just do whatever we like? Doesn't it matter what God's plan and intention might be for His Bride? Isn't this part of God's Eternal Purpose in Christ Jesus?

These are not small issues. This isn't about preference of worship style or, as Heather and Daniel point out, personal expression. It's a much deeper issue that touches our identity in Christ, the intention of God Himself and the freedom we have been given at the expense of the shed blood of our Savior.

Do these things matter?

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Amen Keith...

the verse just came to mind that says, "My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent"...

And all of a sudden, it seems that another "fall-back position" has been high-lighted here, the appeal to our good intentions...

Does it really matter if a person consciencely intended to elevate themself above the rest of the Body? Or is the real question about whether or not people end up looking to men, rather than Christ, regardless of whether it was intended or not? Is it okay to take ridiculous amounts of money, and spend it on our own religious trappings, so long as we rationalize it as being for "the ministry"? We seem to get so fixated on our good intentions, but is that really the way we are to measure the actions of those who call themselves the Body of Christ?

Peter had "good intentions" when he objected to the idea of Christ's death, but yet Jesus rebuked his words as a voice of the enemy. Peter thought he was acting out of love for his master, yet Jesus told him, "you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." (Matthew 16:21-23)

Tracey Alan Sheneman said...

I take no personal offense, Keith. However, we are called to serve one another and to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. We acknowledge and serve Jesus Christ as the living head, the source of life, of the body, which is his bride. But does not the body consist of many members, each performing its God-given function? Is it right for the hand to say to the foot, why are you not a hand? Does not the gift of prophecy serve to meet the spiritual needs of believers? And yet, this is accomplished by God through human agency. "My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus." Does this mean we no longer need to interact with others for mutual support and edification? Obviously not. We no longer live to please ourselves but we willingly yield ourselves to the One who called us according to his mercy. If someone is reading "do as you please" into my defense of Christian freedom I would refer them to Romans ch.s 6 and 14. We certainly are equal at the foot of the cross, and by God's grace he has given some to be prophets, teachers, and evangelists; some the gift of prophecy; some the gift of tongues; some healing; some comforting. No one has earned a higher position in the body; there is only one head. Rather than artificially elevating one class over another, we are to consider others better than ourselves. Conceit and vanity exists in every one of us, whether we attend a traditional church or some other form of meeting and serving. We must guard against it by maintaining a servant attitude and by accepting the discipline of Christ.

Keith Giles said...

Tracey - 1 Cor 12 (which you misapply here) has nothing to do with defending denominationalism. If anything it's a passage which speaks the most loudly against any such single-pastor form of traditional church.

If every church was actively involved in honoring one another and working together as a Body to encourage one another through the Gifts of the Spirit like the one Paul describes in 1 Cor 12 we wouldn't be having this discussion.

It's not as if Anglicans are "feet" and "Methodists" are eyes or Charismatics are "hands" in the Body. These are man-made divisions which are not equatable with God-Given Spiritual Gifts.

You do see that, don't you?

Tracey Alan Sheneman said...

I respect the faith traditions of other believers, whether Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, or what have you. It is not for me to decide what is an appropriate manner of belonging to Christ. By the cross we can transcend human divisions and barriers: there is neither slave nor free, male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, but all are one in Christ Jesus. The question before us is, do we want to be one? Though the body has many members, many different traditions and approaches to understanding and experiencing God's grace and love, we are still one through Christ.

Keith Giles said...

I agree with you Tracey. It's not up to you, or to me to decide these things. We should defer to God's Word for wisdom, direction and guidance. If God reveals something in His Word that tells us how we can be One in Christ, with Christ as our Head (not any man or priest; Rabbi or "Father") then we should obey Him.

I think this is where you and I are feeling tension in this conversation: I am talking about ACTUALLY eliminating these divisions between us in favor of allowing Christ to be our ACTUAL Head and Lord.

You are talking about metaphorically eliminating these divisions and metaphorically allowing Jesus to be our Head.

If we actually allow these divisions between us (man-made denominations) to be tossed aside (for real) and if we actually decide to only be Christians (and not Baptists or Anglicans or whatever) and if we actually allow Jesus to be the Head of our Church (and not any professional clergy or priest), then we will actually enjoy the freedom of being One (for real) and we will actually be taking steps towards what Jesus had in mind when He prayed that we would be One even as He and the Father are One.

At least, that's my decidedly minority opinion.

In the New Testament we do not find denominations or man-made divisions (except for those that Paul rebukes openly in his letter to the Corinthians).

In Heaven we will not be divided into Presbyterians and Episcopalians. We will only be followers and lovers of Jesus.

Why don't we go ahead and try to live this way right now? Why don't we go ahead and throw off these man-made divisions which keep us separate?

There is only One Body. There is only One Family of God. We are One in Christ - so let's stop playing these label games and love one another.

I'm game! And I love you even if you decide to remain a Methodist or a Baptist or whatever. I wish you wouldn't, but I don't condemn you or break fellowship with you because of your choice.

In fact, I will go one better. I will treat you as my actual brother in Christ even if you don't attend my church or agree with my ecclesiology or tithe to my church. I will help you and pray for you and support you and love you even if you're not a member of my specific fellowship.

That's Kingdom life. That's Family life in Christ.

Love you,

Tracey Alan Sheneman said...

I understand and appreciate your views on denominalationalism, where I differ is in the assumption that for us to truly be one in Christ we must eschew traditional, or denominational ecclesiology altogether. Were not Jewish Christians yet Jews? Were not Greeks still Greeks? What changed, and what needs to change in us, is the attitude that belonging to a certain sect, group, or culture sets us apart and above the rest as "chosen people". Been there, done that! I don't consider you any less of a brother for emphasizing your desire to see us truly united in Christ; quite the contrary, I applaud your effort! I have been blessed by your sermons, your songs, and your service. I try to remember the words of Jesus, "Wherever two or three gather in my name, I am there among you". I have witnessed the living Christ among the homeless, I have seen him in the lives of prostitutes and drug addicts, and I have heard him speaking through ordained ministers in their vestments. Maybe this verse is helpful: "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." Matt. 13:52 If we allow these artificial barriers in our hearts and minds to collapse we will be able to see the reality of Christ in each other.


Tracey Alan Sheneman said...

The verse that sprang to mind is in Ephesians 4:11-13, not 1 Cor. 12:28, although I did mix the two. "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." Just want to clear that up. Anyway, 1 Cor. 13 is the goal, the conclusion of 1 Cor. 12.

Like a Mustard Seed said...

Were not Jewish Christians yet Jews? Were not Greeks still Greeks? What changed, and what needs to change in us, is the attitude that belonging to a certain sect, group, or culture sets us apart and above the rest as "chosen people".

So... are you saying that Keith is promoting a "sect that denounces sects"? That seems a bit self-contradictory... Yes, Greek Christians were Greeks, and Jewish Christians were Jews, BUT, what happened in Galatians 2?

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
(verses 11-16)

Jews were Jews, but they were not permitted to simply hide behind their traditions as the reason for not acting in line with the gospel. The Gospel of Jesus trumped all tradition, and at some point, that stuff has to be let go of. If we want to experience real unity, (whereby we are actually living and interacting with other believers in real fellowship), as opposed to just hypothetical unity, then we must be prepared to let our denominational definitions fall by the way side. Christ is what defines us, period.

We are so blessed to have built real, meaningful relationships with people who've come out of all kinds of denominational backgrounds; Baptist, Reformed, Presbyterian, Vineyard, Lutheran, Calvary Chapel, and Catholic... And like Keith, we know many people who still operate under some denominational "umbrella", but we have to admit that the fellowship is usually stunted, because like the "circumsion group" in Gal. 2, they have been conditioned not to eat with those outside their 'camp'.

How does it make sense to say that the different denominations/traditions represent different parts of the Body, if they are all operating completely independantly of one another? Because that is what they do! That is how every denomination started, they broke off, and gave themself a new name, wrote a new creed, and came up with their own liturgy or style or whatever. It is the exact opposite of being the Body, and it is very much like the eye saying to the hand, "I don't need you!"

Tracey Alan Sheneman said...

Well, what can I say. Like a Muatard Seed? The verses you quote about Peter being in the wrong are self-explanatory, and do not say that Peter was wrong for being a Jew, but for withdrawing from Gentiles out of fear of disapproval of the circumcision faction within the church. The circumcision group held that Gentiles needed to be circumcised and Paul rightly corrected Peter (and Barnabas) for this heresy. Christians are absolutely free to fellowship with Christians from other denominations, cultures, races, and social classes. Christ set us free from factional divisions. I try to practice an ecumenical faith, and I believe in dialogue between believers. I do not require anyone to convert to my particular version of the faith in order to be considered worthy of fellowship.

Peace, brothers and sisters.