May 022014
 

(This post is part of the Holding Up Our Sign series)

As I have previously posted, we find ourselves socially to be very, very at home with the Reformed Baptist churches in general (see Socially: A Lot Reformed Baptist).

tulipBut, as I also noted in that post, we are unable to reconcile with the Calvinist view of predestination.  (Please note that I am attempting to use “I” and “we” distinctly here, as they were a bit different in the journey – although “we” arrived unshakably at the same conclusion).

We attended a local Reformed Baptist church for about a month, and had a wonderful time of fellowship with like-minded (in most ways!) individuals.  We even had dinner at the pastor’s house, and had a whole evening to talk about doctrine.

I wanted to be able to be part of their fellowship.  I was willing to suspend some of my disbelief and really try to see the way they were interpreting things.  This was definitely not a case of rejecting something based on preconceived notions.

(I must also put in here somewhere that the people who want to distill the entire scope of the issue down to a debate of Calvinism vs. Arminianism are using drama to try to make their point.  In reality, there is a vast “grey area” between those two opposite views).

Posting a debate of each verse that was cited to us would be long and pointless, and there have been countless volumes written on both sides of the debate.  Suffice to say that while we saw many verses that could be interpreted that way, we didn’t see any that didn’t have another (easy and obvious) possible meaning.  I wondered if I needed to dig out my Greek New Testament and begin a more probing study of them.

Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.

- Oswald Chambers

It is interesting to note that our teen son, Nick, rejected Calvinism and this church violently upon his first visit there.  Without much ability to articulate more, he simply insisted that the notion of predestination was opposed to the character of God.  When we discussed the idea that perhaps we could differ in some ways and still enjoy their fellowship, he protested.  We didn’t understand his adamant perspective until a couple of weeks later.

Then one Sunday after services, we were all (our family and the congregation) sitting around chatting after the fellowship meal.  I found myself sitting with a group on women, including someone I knew outside of the church and considered a possible friend (to be developed).  I can write this story only because I know she does not read my blog, and I will further call her by the pseudonym “Jane” to protect her privacy.

Jane was upset, and as the conversation went on her tears flowed freely.  She was discussing her teenage son, who had not accepted Christ.  The discussion began with her question, “How can I teach him to lead a good life?  I know he may not be one of the elect, but I still want him to be a good person…”

Hold it.  Stop right there.

That clarified on a deep emotional level for me what Calvinism’s predestination really meant:

Calvinism asserts that there is no guarantee that my children can be saved.  

They may simply not be one of the elect.  Period.

I don’t have to cite chapter and verse to support how ridiculous that is.  Scripture should be taken in context, they say, and the whole of Scripture leads me to an understanding of the Lord that can not encompass this idea.

My son was right.

Clearly, we would never believe in the five “TULIP” points of Calvinism.  But further, we could not sit under that teaching, knowing that our children would be absorbing that message.

I miss their fellowship desperately.  But I continue to believe that the Lord has a plan for us.

Nov 222011
 

Let me reiterate my intention with this entire Holding Up Our Sign series:

We have had trouble finding a place where we feel comfortable. In many churches, there is a terrific theological alignment, but a disagreement over social and lifestyle issues. In other churches, we fit right in to the social norms, but there are doctrinal differences that we just can’t ignore.

I am attempting to present the ideas from a wide variety of denominations that we have encountered, which we found particularly valuable – or particularly troublesome. This will include any number of churches that we know we would never attend, and it not my intention to recommend them to you wholesale.

We’re piecing together the quilt of our Home Church belief system. You get a ringside seat for the process!

As with other denominations under discussion, I have not done an in-depth study of the various issues here. As I am trying to explain my reasoning here, I hope you will bear with me through any minor errors or incongruities.

Since by and large the mainline Protestant denominations (Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, etc.) are splinters that broke away from the Catholic church during the Reformation, each has retained varying degrees of the Catholic “issues” presented here. In most cases, these are significant enough that they are the “Where We Differ With…” reasons that we do not feel comfortable there. A few other unique issues will be addressed in separate posts.

This post has turned into a fascinating study, as I became enmeshed in a dialogue about some of these issues after asking a Catholic friend to proof-read it.

Talking to her made me realize how unfair a rap Catholicism usually gets. People see something, and judge it – even without understanding it, sometimes even when that requires making up an explanation. Some things that may look “odd” from the outside may be perfectly sensible when they are understood.

I am by no means under the impression that I know or understand everything about Catholicism at this point, but I have endeavored to find out enough to make my views at least somewhat less skewed. This has, in fact, shifted my view on several issues. There’s still a bit of “where we differ” left, though.

Infant Baptism vs. Believer’s Baptism

We believe that baptism is a symbolic action that is taken by an “adult” believer, to demonstrate his commitment to following after Christ. Adult here refers only to the “age of accountability,” which we do not wish to argue here; it is used to differentiate from…

Infant baptism is practiced in the Catholic church, as well as many of the mainline Protestant denominations.

Some of the principles behind the infant baptism ceremony, with which we agree, are taken up in a separate, informal ceremony at many Baptist churches (don’t know about anywhere else) called “Baby Dedication” – which would more properly be “Parental Dedication”. The baby is typically presented with a tiny Bible (symbolic, at that age, but cute), and the parents pledge to raise their child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The Pastor will then pray over all the families taking part, asking the congregation to also take up the community burden of prayer and support for them. [Ed note: Wish people took that "community" part more seriously].

This would be a perfect time to also elect Godparents (as the Catholics do), which seems a most worthwhile institution. Why don’t Baptists do that? Maybe we will…

Anyhow, Catholics will then compare the conscious choice element of Believer’s Baptism to their second Sacrament – Confirmation. The trouble is, however correct the intentions may be, I’ve known enough young “Catholics” to know that this is often not an adult and willful choice, but simlply obedience to their parents and adherence to the routine of church ceremonies that one simply does. This should not be interpreted as a slight towards Catholics, as it is a concern across the board.

But it is, thus, one of the main arguments for holding off on the “choice” portion until a later age. Interestingly, the Amish go further still, with teenagers being encouraged to “see what’s out there” during their Rumschpringe before choosing to take the vows of church membership.

Interestingly, the language used to describe this rite in some Catholic literature (“A sacrament in which the Holy Ghost is given to those already baptized in order to make them strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.”) sounds a lot like the language used by the Pentecostals. Their post is coming.

And still, Scripture over and over uses the language of “believe and repent, and be baptized.”

Believe first.

Then be baptized.

And that’s all.

Intermediary / Intercessor vs. Direct Access; Holiness of Men

We do not agree with the Catholics’ emphasis on praying to various Saints, and of course (especially) to the Virgin Mary.

It is our belief that, while holy and wonderful people, all of them were… well… people. Just men and women. Even Mary.

Although we study and learn about certain “heroes of the faith” – including Mary, and many of the other Catholic Saints, I’m sure – we would never consider praying to any of them.

Jesus is my personal Lord and Savior. Scripture even refers to Him as our Intercessor – our High Priest. We can also pray directly to the Father, as the Lord’s Prayer clearly demonstrates.

So why do I need to pray to some guy, to pray to the Lord for me?

In my experience there is a wide range of Catholic belief and experience in regard to the “personal relationship” aspect. Some Catholics feel, believe, and pray just as your typical Evangelical. But others seem to be caught up in ritual prayers, ritual celebrations, and almost a doctrine of works (although I’m not going to “go there”, since it is not doctrine, this is definitely an issue for many people).

(I adore the scene in We Were Soldiers, when the Catholic Mel Gibson character is saying rote prayers with his children, and the little girl says she wants to “pray to Mommy’s [Protestant] God” so that she can say what she feels.)

The Divinity or Divine Appointment or Divine Connection of the Pope

I’m not sure precisely how most Catholics view the Pope, but this is many degrees removed from anything I could agree with.

Jesus is the head of the Church, and all men are just men. I do not believe – do not see any evidence in Scripture to support the idea – that God reveals His plan to one man and one man only, for dissemination through a Papal Decree.

Although Jesus said he would “build His church upon the Rock (Peter)”, I think you would be hard-pressed to trace the Pope’s current level of power, authority, and ascribed infallibility back to that.

Confession and Penance

I do not find any requirement in Scripture that I confess my sins to another person (not to be confused with the requirement to seek forgiveness from someone you have wronged). Even less does there seem any justification for another man imposing a penalty for my sin (not to be confused with legal penalties).

This is business that is strictly between me and the Lord.

Pomp, Ceremony, and Ritual

This is an area that I think is probably likely to be viewed skewed-ly.

What one person sees as over-the-top, or ritualistic, or self-aggrandizing, another may see as an attempt to honor the Lord through the splendor of worship, and a natural outgrowth of the Lord’s instructions about the temple, the priests, etc. in the Old Testament.

It is my understanding, though, that Christ’s coming abolished the office and traditions of the Levite priesthood. Since we no longer need them to offer sacrifices on our behalf, nor to act as an intermediary between us and Lord, they are no longer necessary.

Thus today’s pastor is a shepherd, and a teacher. An evangelist. But not someone who us approaching the Holy of Holies, and needs to wear glorious garb that sets him apart from the rest of us.

As you may know if you’ve been here long, I do very much agree that the Lord deserves our respect in worship – including dressing up in our best.

So, I do not feel comfortable with the Catholic practice here, if only because it is so easily misconstrued even by the congregation at large.

But I do not find this a horrible offence as it might once have appeared.

Purgatory

My “sola scriptura” conviction is that there is no mention of this in the Scripture, so it is not something in which I believe.

There are possible interpretations ranging from, “absent from the body, present with the Lord,” to the dead in Christ “sleeping” until the appointed hour. But I do not believe that their condition can be improved during this “holding period,” nor that the prayers of the living can effect their condition.

Catholic friends: while I welcome your input, and correction of any fundamental errors I may have made, I do not wish to turn this into a debate. I am unlikely to be converted to Catholicism, and am only trying to explain by comparison the things I believe.

Oct 192011
 

Let me reiterate my intention with this entire Holding Up Our Sign series:

We have had trouble finding a place where we feel comfortable. In many churches, there is a terrific theological alignment, but a disagreement over social and lifestyle issues. In other churches, we fit right in to the social norms, but there are doctrinal differences that we just can’t ignore.

I am attempting to present the ideas from a wide variety of denominations that we have encountered, which we found particularly valuable – or particularly troublesome. This will include any number of churches that we know we would never attend, and it not my intention to recommend them to you wholesale.

We’re piecing together the quilt of our Home Church belief system. You get a ringside seat for the process!

I mentioned all the things we adore about the Mennonites, and related Anabaptist churches, in my previous post What We Can Learn From the Plain People.

Since I like them so much, you may wonder why we aren’t a member of one of those churches. Well, there are good reasons for that.

Understanding, again, that there are countless shades of difference among various sub-groups, I am going to go ahead and speak in generalities. After all, my point is only to clarify our beliefs, not make a doctrinal treatise on someone else’s.

A Personal Relationship With Christ

The Old-Order Amish, at least, seem to have a more distant relationship to the Lord than we prefer. It seems that individual study is not encouraged, and that Bible reading is done only aloud (at church services, or at home by the husband/father). They do not make as much an issue of a moment of personal conversion and salvation as they do of the decision to take the vows to join the church.

On the one hand, this does solve the problem we often observe in the church of a too-casual attitude towards the Savior. Wolf commonly says, “Jesus is not your drinking buddy!”

But this also denies a peace and security that only comes with an intimate relationship with our Lord, and the assurances of reading and knowing His Word.

(This is certainly not the case with all Anabaptists).

Military Service

The Anabaptists are pacifists. They do not serve in the military.

At first this seemed like an issue that we didn’t need to make “an issue” out of. It’s not theology, after all. Right?

The first wrinkle in that comes from the fact that Wolf is, even now, serving in the military. And in discussing it, it became more and more clear that we would find many other things “colored” by their views on that.

I feel that to accept membership in a group that does not believe in that would dishonor the people we love (including Wolf) who serve their country in that manner, which we esteem very highly. It would feel especially wrong when held up against the sacrifice of both Wolf’s Uncles (his father also served, but made it home), and our sweet family friend Matt, who went Home serving in Afghanistan last year (view my Farewell post).

Forgiveness

(The cute bumper sticker design is from Zazzle)

It’s somewhat humorous – we wouldn’t be allowed to join most Anabaptist churches even if we wanted to.

Wolf and I are both previously divorced, you see (you can find out stories under the “About Us” tab). And in their eyes, that makes our marriage invalid. We are living in sin, and as such cannot become members of their church.

I totally agree that divorce is wrong. God hates it.

But you know what? I have repented, and asked forgiveness. So I am forgiven. Covered by the Blood of Christ.

The Lord has promised that that transgression is gone. As far as the East is from the West.

So if they Mighty Creator of the Universe isn’t going to hold it against me… Then who are you to judge me based on my past?

Oct 182011
 

Let me reiterate my intention with this entire Holding Up Our Sign series:

We have had trouble finding a place where we feel comfortable. In many churches, there is a terrific theological alignment, but a disagreement over social and lifestyle issues. In other churches, we fit right in to the social norms, but there are doctrinal differences that we just can’t ignore.

I am attempting to present the ideas from a wide variety of denominations that we have encountered, which we found particularly valuable – or particularly troublesome. This will include any number of churches that we know we would never attend, and it not my intention to recommend them to you wholesale.

We’re piecing together the quilt of our Home Church belief system. You get a ringside seat for the process!

Meaning no disrespect to their differences, I am writing this post about traits that we have observed, and believe to be “the norm,” among a variety of Anabaptist churches, including the Amish, and the more traditional branches of the Mennonites, as well as others.

For some reason this does not seem to include the German Baptist Church, which would otherwise seem to be part and parcel of the same grouping.

To be sure, we do have some strong differences of opinion with these groups, which I will post about separately. Right now I want to tell you about some of the wonderful things that draw us to this community of believers.

Modesty

As anyone who has seen me can easily guess, modesty is something important to me. Since I also wear a head covering, nothing in the manner of dress would prevent me from enjoying these churches.

Their rules are certainly more rigid than I believe is necessary, but certainly all of the women there are modest, and further they are easily identifiable as part of the community, and a witness to the wider world.

I think the rigidity is probably an acceptable trade-off, given the way the world – and the church! – is currently dressing.

Simple Living / Frugality

This doesn’t need a lot of explanation, right? At the extreme end they have no electricity, or cars… You know what I’m talking about?

While most of us using a computer probably agree that we don’t want that “simple” a life, it’s certainly instructive to see that there are people in the modern world living rich, full lives in that manner.

As we walk down this path towards being more self-sufficient, and taking little steps off the grid, I am thankful that there are such communities of people who have kept alive the skills we need to accomplish our goals, and have supported the ongoing manufacture of the “old-fashioned” tools to help.

Community

Any other church’s definition of “community” is going to come up short when compared to theirs. Except – A HA! – the description of the New Testament church in Acts.

Obviously each community is slightly different in their particulars, but they are very communal. And this isn’t just about taking someone a casserole when they have a new baby.

They do not believe in insurance, but rather they take care of each other. In some churches we visited, essentially one would “tithe” all their money remaining after paying the bills; then the church would step up when you had a large medical bill, or needed a new truck.

Now that, my friends, is “bearing one another’s burdens.”

Oct 092011
 


Copyright notice: I have modified this only slightly from the post over at 5 pt. Salt, from a sermon by Dr. James White.

Dr. White gives the “tell it like it is” reasons why, if you are shopping for a local Christian fellowship, and thinking along the lines of the mainstream evangelical church, you may want to dismiss a Reformed Baptist Church — and our Home Church (which is not Reformed Baptist).

  • You don’t get to leave after every sermon feeling good about yourself. You may even (*gasp*) desire repentance.
  • You don’t get to hear the sermons in the same way you may be used to. It’s frequently verse by verse, maybe not even relevant to your current situation.
  • You don’t get to be entertained. We don’t want to entertain you.
  • You don’t get to go to church every weeknight for programs. We don’t have ‘em, and we don’t think you should dump your kids in a room for babysitting (however it is disguised).
  • You don’t get to be ‘lost in the crowd’. We tend to have accountability to one another.
  • You don’t get to hear social commentary. Sermons are mostly biblical and serious.
  • We’re not considered ‘seeker-friendly’. Here we differ from Dr. White a bit in theology, but the principle point stands: We don’t believe that is the purpose of a worship service, nor do we believe in compromising the message to make it ‘appealing’ to unbelievers.
  • You’re asked to apply the sermons to your life.
  • You’re asked to attend services regularly, to support your elders in prayer, and give sacrificially to the advance of the Gospel.
  • You will experience conviction of sin with regularity. You will also be frequently reminded of vital doctrines, without compromise.

The details are very well laid-out by Dr. White, and clarify these points greatly. I highly recommend that you go and listen to the whole message: Click here.

It’s nice to hear a pastor spell out so many of the things we feel strongly about!

Oct 072011
 

Let me reiterate my intention with this entire Holding Up Our Sign series:

We have had trouble finding a place where we feel comfortable. In many churches, there is a terrific theological alignment, but a disagreement over social and lifestyle issues. In other churches, we fit right in to the social norms, but there are doctrinal differences that we just can’t ignore.

I am attempting to present the ideas from a wide variety of denominations that we have encountered, which we found particularly valuable – or particularly troublesome. This will include any number of churches that we know we would never attend, and it not my intention to recommend them to you wholesale.

We’re piecing together the quilt of our Home Church belief system. You get a ringside seat for the process!

First, let me state that I have never been to a church service at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) church. All my observations about these issues are based on my experience of them as an outsider.

The LDS Church seems to place a lot of emphasis on two values that are near and dear to our hearts: Thrift / Preparedness and Community.

Policy encourages all members to have a Food Storage reserve in their home. This will allow them to survive any disaster – natural or social; there are guidelines for a three-month supply, and a one-year supply.

What a great policy! If something horrible happens, the only groups likely to be able to hang in there are the Amish and the Mormons!

And, vitally, it isn’t just talk, or a “command from on high” – they’re actively involved in making it happen.

They have “Canneries” set up all over the country – they seem to be going more by names like “Family Home Storage Center” these days. At any rate, church members can order bulk products through there at amazing prices (wheat, oats, rice, pasta, dried milk, beans, etc.). They can get large quantities, or they can go there and use the facility to can those products into more manageable quantities.

The best part is that non-members can order the bulk items, too! The policies shift over time, and vary slightly by location. Some times or places you need to be accompanied by a church member. When I recently ordered, their policy was that I could order the large bulk items, but would need to come as a guest (with a member) if I wanted to do canning (which is also booked 6 months ahead).

[As a side note, this is similar to the benefits we can reap as non-members from being allowed to use the vast genealogy resource libraries that the LDS Church has created.]

I have not looked into it a great deal, but passing comments have led me to believe that some (many?) of the products are grown and packaged all within the church. What an accomplishment!

Some people may wish to argue that this is not trusting in God for our daily bread. On the contrary, I believe absolutely it is being a good steward of the bread He does provide. The Israelites and their manna was a single very specific situation, and a specific lesson for them. Are the chipmunk and the ant doing wrong by storing food for the winter? No. It is the natural order – harvest in season, and preserve the bounty for the lean times.

Several of my favorite cooking and food storage blogs, as it happens, are based on rotating and cooking with your food storage, from some delightful Mormon ladies.

And furthermore?

They have an offshoot of this which I believe is referred to as the “Bishop’s Storehouse,” which functions as a food pantry for those local church members experiencing challenges.

And when we went to pick up the bulk order a couple of weeks ago? Right there in the same building was an sign indicating that it was the home of the job placement assistance office!

Just wow!

For me/us, it seems like the modern “Mainstream Evangelical Church” has gotten a little preoccupied with evangelism.

Please don’t even start to tell me how important it is, or that Christ commanded it. I’m in no way denying or belittling that.

But Christ spent a lot more time telling the church to take care of one another. Feed My sheep. Bear one another’s burdens.

If we started by strengthening the church body, and supporting one another, we would be stronger and better able to spread the Good News!

So our Home Church’s belief system includes the idea that it is good stewardship to be prepared for what the broken world may have in store, as well as the oft-mentioned idea that the church should be extremely supportive and communal.

Oct 022011
 

I started this post long ago, with the title of “Denomination Dilema.”

As our current situation reveals – and the Holding Up Our Sign series shows – this entire issue has come to a head since then.

So some of this may be slightly repetitive of other posts I’ve written recently. But since I really only addressed our essential agreement with the doctrines of the Southern Baptists, I thought it important to clarify where it is that we differ from them – why we aren’t simply attending a Southern Baptist church.

For the record, the church where we are currently still members (not quite knowing how to approach that), as well as the previous four churches where we held membership (going back prior to the beginning of our marriage), have been affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Also, just to reiterate – Wolf and I are of one mind on these issues, and he is the spiritual head of our family, no question. I blog as “I, Tiffany,” for the sake of clarity, and of course also to avoid the possibility of wrongly attributing something to him in the details of our individual personalities and opinions.

The reason we most commonly end up at Baptist churches is manifold, but has not proven entirely satisfactory over the last few years, either.

  • Doctrinally, I have found myself in agreement with the Southern Baptist and Independent Baptist churches. Bible believing, Bible teaching, Trinity, non-Charismatic, etc. (See my post Theologically Baptist-ish)
  • Baptist churches tend to have programs I like for the kids, such as AWANA.
  • Easy to find one. Or six.
  • A larger church has more resources for things like the AWANA programs, youth (youth is a whole separate issue now, but in the past that did influence my thinking in that way), etc. And (see above) there’s typically a big Baptist church (or six) around…

But more and more, I have grown to feel out of place in Southern Baptist churches. Here are the two biggest reasons why:

Modesty

Our dress clearly sets us apart. While I’m used to being “odd” in the world (aka “set apart”), it seems a little odd to be so “odd” among the people who are supposed to be walking the same path as us. (Please know that I do understand that we’re all at different places on the path – this isn’t about that).

I wouldn’t mind particularly, for instance, if other women in the church didn’t wear headcoverings. Or if there was not agreement about whether short sleeves versus 3/4 sleeves were modest, or how many inches below the knee your skirt needed to be. This issue isn’t a legalistic one.

I do mind when women wear (to church, no less!) skirts that are so short and tight I can’t imagine how they even sit down, or blouses so loose and low-cut they have to cover their chest with their hand when they lean over to get their purse (at least they know to do that!), jeans so tight you can (yeah, never mind), or those patent-leather stiletto heels … and worse, all those things on their pre-teen daughters!

Again, I’m not talking about the visitor or seeker, nor addressing women who may not have or be able to afford anything else. This is about women who are long-time, active members of the church, comfortably affluent, and choosing to wear that type of clothing – and dress their daughters in it.

I don’t want to feel like they should be handing out blinders to the men along with a worship guide as they enter the sanctuary. It does not glorify God, and it certainly does not help our brothers in Christ to focus on Him.

Family

We like our kids.

Crazy, huh?

I enjoy being with my kids. And I feel very strongly about my Biblically mandated parental responsibilities.

I want to keep my babies with me, to cuddle and nurse and change when any of those are needed. And I want my family together during the worship service, so that the children can learn how to worship corporately as they grow into that role.

I have no particular problem with everyone also going to a Sunday School class, and studying the Word in an age-appropriate context. But I do not want to force my young ones to separate from me if they are not comfortable with that – regardless of their age (I feel that is counterproductive on many levels). Furthermore, experience has led me to believe that “small groups” are a much more effective means of study, fellowship, and accountability for adults (and families). And of course children can and should be taught by their parents, so “Sunday School” is just a fun diversion for them.

Most of the mainstream Baptist churches (Southern or Independent) don’t seem to “get” this, at all.

They may or may not have a “nursing room” (when they do it’s often basically a closet), but have no “cry room” or “family nursery” where we can be together and still hear/see the worship service, if a fussy baby means we need to leave the sanctuary. (This has resulted in a lot of service times spent walking the halls with a little one).

Children are simply not, by and large, encouraged in the worship services.

They don’t want me to bring the little ones to a “women’s” or “couples” Sunday School hour. And, oddly, most of them are not on-board with the idea of me staying with my youngest in his designated Sunday School “class”. (This has resulted in a lot of Sunday School times spent walking the halls with a little one).

You know, walking the halls with my little one isn’t fun. And it isn’t worship, or fellowship, or learning, or anything else. I might as well stay home…

Which started happening more and more often.

Which was a big red flag that there was a problem with our “fit” in those churches’ belief system.

Once noticed, you can see this thought system in everything they do.

One recent example which was pointed out to me very clearly: A Cubbies AWANA program for three year-olds shouldn’t be two hours long. Who in the world would think you should make something for that age group that long? Ah – someone who is really only envisioning it as a babysitting program, which needs to occupy the “little nuisances” while mom and dad go to the Sunday evening adult activities, which are two hours long.

So, the quest began…

Sep 302011
 

(This post is part of the Holding Up Our Sign series)

family
Family Worship
The Reformed Baptist Church is a Calvinist group, so not preaching we can comfortably sit under.

But they seem to be the best match we have found for the way we believe the church was intended to be on a personal, family, social level.

I’d like to copy some text from the website of a Reformed Baptist church where we’ve spent some time. This was a wonderful experience, and we related to these people on so many levels.

Here’s is their “About Us” description [church name removed]:

- THIS Church is a congregation of the people of God who deeply reverence the Word of God and seeks to establish all our teachings and activities around the inspired text. The Word of God establishes our message, guides our worship, and governs our mission.

- In order to properly glorify God and to honor the Sacred Scriptures, we preach the crucified Christ as the only means by which one can be saved; only by exalting Jesus Christ as Lord over all, and by making Him known among the nations, will we glorify the Father and thereby, fulfill the purpose for our existence.

- THIS Church is committed to the biblical and historical theology of the Protestant Reformation. We eagerly affirm that Scripture alone is the guide for life and faith, salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and will be for God’s glory alone. We believe these are the emphases of Evangelical Christianity.

- We are committed to uniting church and family. HERE you will be encouraged to remain together as a family during the worship service. We believe that church will be a major part of our children’s lives therefore we bring them into the worship service instead of sending them to a nursery. We also encourage and equip parents to teach their children the Bible through instruction at home.

- We are a homeschool friendly congregation. Many of our families homeschool their children and at THIS Church you will find encouragement and support in this endeavor.

This is lovely! See, I just snipped out that one point they had about predestination, and everything is fine.

And on the next page, their “Beliefs”:

The Supremacy of God Over All Things
• High View Of GOD: We proclaim a God-exalting theology, God-centered worldview, and God-glorifying approach to life and ministry.
• GOD-honoring Worship: We cultivate a transcendent worship which produces the fear of God and great joy.
• GOD-driven Convictions: We promote a passion for God’s holy name and a defense of His glorious reputation.

The Sufficiency of Scripture in All of Life
• Divine Revelation: We affirm the full inspiration, complete inerrancy, and total infallibility of Scripture.
• Biblical Authority: We uphold that the Scripture alone is ultimately authoritative for the life of the church and for every believer.
• Full Counsel Of GOD: We acknowledge that the Scripture is sufficient for all matters of life and godliness, including equipping the saints for spiritual growth, guidance, counseling, and ministry.
• Expository Preaching: We insist that the Scripture should be preached and taught in the power of the Holy Spirit, giving careful attention to sound doctrine and defense of the faith.

Again, we just run into one sticky matter, “The Sovereignty of God in All Aspects of Salvation”. Even on those points, it is entirely possible to read or interpret them in a way which gives no offense. Yet, somehow…

The debate about Calvinism I will leave for another day. Today I want to remain focused on the social dynamics of these conservative churches that are, in many cases, other Baptist denominations.

It was particularly hard for me, perhaps, to let go of this church, since I often find myself feeling isolated in my Christian walk as a conservative, homeschooling, homemaking mom. Having an extended lunch and fellowship time with a group of (largely) like-minded women was really a blessing to me.

Socially, this is right where we are.

.
Sorry for the lack of attribution, I found the photo randomly on the ‘net, with no photo credit. If you know, please let me know!

Sep 272011
 

(This post is part of the Holding Up Our Sign series)

First, some idea where I’m headed with all of this.

Basically, I see the issues as dividing into two main areas:

  • Theological / doctrinal / Biblical / “beliefs” issues
  • Social and lifestyle issues

Clearly, the doctrinal issues are the most critical ones in an absolute sense. No matter what other factors were influencing the situation, we would not attend a church that preached heresy.

Yet the social issues are in many ways not as clearly divided from the theology as we might think.

  • We don’t believe that people should dress up for Sunday services to make the church look fashionable. We believe they should do so out of honor and respect for the Almighty Creator of the Universe.
  • We don’t believe families should worship together because we don’t want to hassle with volunteers for the nursery. We believe they should do so because the Bible instructs men to be the spiritual head of their families, and instructs parents to train up their children.
  • And so on…

Still, it seems most convenient to discuss the issues somewhat separately, as we wend our way through this exploration and explanation. Most of the time when we find ourselves discussing our “fit” at a particular church, it seems like one of those categories is much more in sync than the other.

A good chunk of the theological part of “what we believe” lines up with the beliefs of the Southern Baptist Convention and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches.

In most respects, these will be seen to line up with the various versions of a “Baptist Confession of Faith” which are out there (probably best known is the 1687), with the significant discrepancy that such confessions all seem to take a Calvinist approach.

As that will be another whole topic unto itself, suffice it so say for the moment that we are neither Calvinists nor Arminians.

(As a side note, Lifeway found that only 10% of Southern Baptist pastors considered themselves Calvinist, while 85% do not (see the article). (The rest? Well, you know how statistics are!)

A brief post, but one that covers a lot of ground. Let’s stop there for the moment.

Sep 252011
 

Jesus signIf you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know we’ve been struggling with finding a church we feel comfortable calling “home.”

At one of the churches we visited, we heard the story of how they (relatively recently) got started:

Three families, convicted about certain beliefs, began meeting for “home church” in someone’s living room. Over time, like-minded people heard what they were doing, and joined in. Soon, they needed to rent a building to have enough room – and also had the resources to do so.

We decided that this may be where we are. It doesn’t seem that there is a church nearby that will meet our needs… But surely there are other like-minded people. It’s just a matter of finding them.

In explaining this to our children, I used this analogy:

Imagine that we’re in a big crowd of people – like at the Zoo. Out of all those people there, we want to find the other people in the crowd who really like the color blue – but how do we know who they are? It would be really hard, and take a really long time, to go up to every single person there and ask them if they liked the color blue. Instead I might stand at one edge of the crown and hold up a big sign that says, “Come join us if you like BLUE!” Then, all the like-minded (blue-liking) people will see the sign, and they will make their way through the crowd to us.

So it goes with our Home Church idea.

At this point it’s just an idea. We’re in our own living room. There is no ordained pastoral leadership. The “church-to-be” is not yet a registered non-profit organization.

But we are convicted about these issues… So we are going to “hold up our sign.”

Wolf and I will both be blogging about the things we believe, that are be the basis on this Home Church. To see them all, click to see posts labeled “We Believe” in the left sidebar menu of post topics.

There will probably also be a Page to aggregate the list, but for now this seems like a workable way to at least make a beginning – to “hold up our sign” so that others can respond as they feel led.