Welcome to the bonus blog entry of New Direction, where we search the Spirit, Scripture and more discovering the New Direction God is leading his church in this post modern culture. Today, we take a look at a statement from John Piper stating that those who walks away from the viable, traditional church, walk away from Jesus.
You can read Part 1 here.
Around 9m30s, Piper says, “There are a lot young, evangelicals who are cool, hip and left ward leaning, who think they can substitute organized… substitute something for organized church. Well, I would have to look at what they are substituting and say, ‘really, are you just creating a church? Try to create church? If you’re just trying to create church, just create it Biblically. Start a Biblical church. And that means listening to your master and His Word and His Apostles. So the choice of Jesus over church implies a choice of your opinion over the Bible.” He goes on to point out that if we truly follow Jesus, we must follow the Jesus of the Bible, and not one we made up.
First, I’m one of those who have substituted ‘Something” for organized church. However, I’m not cool or hip, I’m a nerd. I’m not young…I’m decidedly middle aged. Please, Mr. Piper, do not stereotype.
I agree that we need to follow the Jesus of the Bible, and not make our own deity up. That is the very definition of idolatry. However, when we spread that logic into other subjects, such as organized religion, we run into challenges. Who decides exactly what the kind of church truly looks like? Does it look like a church building with weekly services? Or, does it look like a few of my Christian brothers hanging out with me whenever possible? Does it require a pastor to be the elder of the flock, or could it look like a bunch of friends where no one is completely ‘in charge?’ I’m sure people smarter than I can answers these questions and more with book, chapter and verse… however, my point is that a LOT of this is up to interpretation. Perhaps this explains why have tens of thousands of Christian denominations. (The Bible expressly forbids denominations, incidentally).
Those who follow Christ and truly submit themselves to His Spirit may be led in bold, new directions that traditionalists simply cannot recognize. John the Baptist certainly did not look like your typical Jewish follower. Many of the followers struggled with what others in the body believed in and did. Traditional church leaders need to recognize that God reserves the right to lead each person differently… and accept the possibility that their interpretation of the New Testament, in regards to church, may not be as ironclad as they thought.
I close my argument with two final thoughts.
In Mark 9.38, we see an interesting scene. “John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”
39 “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.”
We want to be careful when we critique those who love and serve in the name of Jesus Christ. Certainly this should not stop us from addressing the concerns that arise from false teachers who use the name of Christ to commit atrocities or lead others to sin. But to strike out or disassociate from others because their idea of church (or most other pet doctrines) does not line up with our own pushes against Jesus teaching here.
Second, I ask you to review Romans 14. Paul addresses the concern of criticism. He points out that if someone does something outside of his faith, that for him, it constitutes sin. If someone does something from faith, it is righteousness. I know someone might point out that this only applies to ‘minor’ matters. However, Paul uses food and holy days as the example, which, in that time, people took quite seriously. Second, if we go down that rabbit hole for a moment, who decides what constitutes a major or minor issue? I would suggest that Jesus made it clear there are two “major” commandments… Love the Lord, and love one another. Everything else, Jesus points out, hinges on these two commandments. Of course, we also have the gospel message, which none of us should compromise on.
However, even if I capitulate that a true concern lies in how a brother interprets the church, and that those who do not attend a traditional church somehow come up short in God’s plan… then I suggest that we should still accept them in love. 1 Peter 4:8 “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”