Tag Archives: standards

Restaurants & Relationships

I’d like to disclose one of my strong personal preferences that actually drives a certain set of behaviors in my life: I will not go to a restaurant that has poor service. Let me clarify that…I will go once to that restaurant but I will not go back again. If I will be spending money to eat out then I not only expect the food to be to my personal liking but I also emphasize that the people who work there at least pretend to be glad I have come. Call it snobbery, call it presumption or call it reasonable if you choose. In the end, it’s my choice and this personal preference determines my actions… and I have no plans to change my standards. It is one thing for me to take such an elevated view of my individual tastes when it comes to eating out. It would be an entirely different issue if I allowed this same principle to determine my relationships. By the grace of God I have been made to understand that I must not walk out on people, refusing to return, because they don’t serve my personal tastes. Let me explain.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” – Romans 14:17-19

The Apostle Paul teaches us in Romans (chapters 14 & 15) that we owe each other a debt of love and a commitment to work through our personal differences in order to cultivate lasting, meanigful relationships. Specifically, he is speaking to Christians who clearly have opposite views on some peripheral issues within God’s Kingdom. Paul takes off his scholar’s hat for a moment and has to replace it with a black and white striped referee’s cap as he tells the followers of Jesus that they must think a little more deeply and try a little harder at maintaining the unity of Spirit in the bonds of peace with one another. The people to whom he was originally writing were very frustrated with each other over things like eating meat, observing Jewish holy days and whether or not Christians were able to drink wine. Paul clearly identifies stronger Christians as those who were liberated from fixating on religious technicalities and presumably binding traditions. The weaker brethren were seen to be those believers who could not feel secure unless they obeyed their scruples – and they expected everyone else to obey those personal tastes also. To the freed, stronger Christians Paul gave a warning for them to be careful how they exercised their spiritual liberty. To the weaker Christians he offered the command to stop judging the freedom of the stronger brother. As a pastor who has navigated these waters many times, I can almost hear Paul sighing as he writes those two chapters.

Have you thought lately about how your particular views/preferences/standards are affecting your relationships with others?  What does it take for you to give yourself permission to stop associating with another believer? Are you thinking of breaking fellowship with your church and finding one that better suits your personal tastes? Sometimes you can convince yourself that your individual preferences carry the weight of Gospel truth. They do not and we deceive ourselves if we assume that God always allows us to step away from others because we do not agree with them in non-biblical matters. Going back to the restaurant metaphor, when we come to moments of decision like these we need to slow down and consider whether the saturation of other available “spiritual dining establishments” makes it too convenient for us to move along from where we currently dine. Let’s be honest: in the Bible belt where many of us live, we can head out a few miles in a different direction to locate a new home church every time we discover that our current fellowship serves up the Sunday meal with some seasoning we do not find appealing. We glibly call it church-hopping but I think we might do well to consider that sometimes it is simply outright selfishness and sin.

Paul told the Romans in the verses above that God’s Kingdom can never be reduced to our personal scruples. God’s Kingdom involves you but it is never all about you. As followers of Jesus we need to seek the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to become more like our Savior in this area. Think about it: everywhere the Son of God went He was surrounded by people, words, ideas and events that failed to meet His own holy standards. Nobody thought like He did, everyone was truly “beneath Him” but they never felt that way. Interestingly, He just kept revealing His commitment & availability to those people. He pressed further into the needs of those people. He remained in places where He knew that His words, Kingdom-offers and saving mission would not be appreciated nor accepted. Jesus even washed the feet of the betraying Judas… but some of His modern day followers cannot even give the right hand of fellowship to other Christians who don’t carry the same English bible translation as they do. Jesus went to a party at the scandalized Zaccheus’ house while some of His 21st century followers won’t go to a local church whose music style doesn’t meet their personal tastes or whose denominational banner doesn’t mimic their own . Jesus asked the Father to forgive His tormentors while He was impaled to a cross – yet today some younger Christians arrogantly write off the older as irrelevant and some older Christians callously judge the younger as irreverent. Turf wars never begin in the church house. They find their origin in proud hearts.

I won’t be going back to yesterday’s restaurant where I took my family to eat after church. The food was pretty good but the way I was served was woefully lacking. To not ever go back is not a difficult decision for me. They won’t miss me and I can just go across the street to the place I am more familiar and where I am always appreciated and served. Yet I don’t view my relationships with others in this same light. Do you want to know why? Because they are not here to serve me in my relationships. I am here to serve them. I am not a consumer negotiating a transaction with them. I am a follower of Jesus as they are and we are part of a forever-family. When that driving principle takes up home in our hearts we will love more selflessly, work more thoroughly, stay more lastingly and hope more enduringly. Set up your personal criteria for restaurants any way you may choose. Be a little more deliberate and humble when you are considering Kingdom relationships.

 

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Jeff Lyle,
Lead Pastor of Meadow Baptist, Lawrenceville, GA

@Transtruth

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Baptist Dysfunction #2

phariseesI was raised believing in the old BAPTIST
acrostic (below). These are the things that supposedly made us ‘distinctive’ in our faith. But as I’m reading and learning, I’m discovering that most -if not all- of these do not mean what they used to… what they’re supposed to. If you haven’t yet, you should catch up by reading Part 1 here.  This post will focus on the Priesthood of the Believer & Individual Soul Liberty. (I’ve decided not to go in the order below, but to group them by their logical sequence.)

B- Biblical Authority
A- Autonomy of the Local Church
P- Priesthood of the Believer
T- Two Church Offices
I- Individual Soul Liberty
S- Saved & Baptized Church Membership
T- Two Church Ordinances

NOTE: Some readers of my last article noted that I write with an evident hurt buried deep inside.  I can’t really identify one singular pain… but I do recognize certain ‘sore spots’ that are sensitive to me. This article, in particular, will really reveal a couple of issues that can affect my blood pressure in a negative way.

P – Priesthood of the Believer

The Bible teaches (1 Peter 2:5) that believers are priests, each having his/her own access to God.  Since Jesus is our High Priest, we need no other mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).  So why do so many IFB pastors stand in this role?  Why do so many say things like: “Before you buy a home or change jobs, you should consult your Pastor.”?  Why do they set themselves up as some kind of ‘priest’ that can divine and/or discern God’s will for the membership? I’ve heard preachers use a church member who didn’t get his advice as an illustration for foolishness or rebellion! I’m a firm believer in getting counsel, but I also believe that Christians don’t need to ask their pastor for permission to buy a car!  Then they take it a step further and take the initiative to assign standards for every family (what to wear, what to listen to, where not to go…), leaving little room for the Holy Spirit to convict.  I believe our standards are far too low & too many!

In addition, the IFB movement has become so governed by a ‘performance’ theology. We’ve lost touch with grace. Why do we continually allow our leaders to set the measurements for us?  Doesn’t the Bible say that when we compare ourselves by and with ourselves we are not wise? Yet we continue to do it – we feed off of it, and it becomes a way of life. Read more about this here.

We define our spirituality by checklists of do’s and don’ts and we let other the fear of man dictate the lists. It’s more human to call a suit & tie your church clothes than to really obey Colossians 3:12-14. After all, it’s easier to measure the visible than the unseen. I still do it (far more than I even realize) and it is sin. The fear of man is a snare! For me, it took a long time to “find myself” after leaving the pretense that I was under, in large part because I had always defined myself by another man’s opinion / approval. It was a terrible mixture of my own insecurities fostered by the emphasis on performance by those surrounding me.

I – Individual Soul Liberty

Much of what defines IFB churches are ‘standards.’  Unknowingly, churches are bound in the culture war more than they are in a war for doctrinal #oldpaths. In the 1950’s, when the Convention was going south (waffling on major fundamentals), a remnant of Biblicists separated from the whole and became Independent, Fundamental Baptists.  In so doing, they became defined by their culture. Women wore skirts, churches used only hymns (with piano music) and black-bound King James Bibles, and preaching against ‘movie houses’ was common.

Examples abound… A pastor-friend was asked to leave his church in the 70’s because his son wore a white belt.  I know a man who wouldn’t let his wife wear pantyhose because they were ‘split-legged.’ I heard about an addiction program which required all participants to wear proper attire. If they didn’t have any, they were provided with disposable plastic skirts (for the ladies) to wear during the class.  No wonder it never got off the ground!

We have become so wrapped up in the externals. How refreshing would it be if we could go to a conference (IFB) and not to hear messages entrenched in legalistic manipulation. (Is Legalism a Bad Word?)  We’ve used some Biblical words to justify our shallow preaching when — according to Jesus himself — there are far weightier matters to attend to!!  The IFB movement is becoming known for its Pharisee-ism, and it doesn’t seem that much is being done to turn that around.  That’s not the fringe, that’s the mainstream. And, thankfully, the younger generation of new fundamentalists are not willing to stand for some of these non-essentials or die in a culture war that their parents / grandparents started!

Romans 14 provides limits for Christians who are ‘strong’ in their faith as they help the ‘weaker.’  It clearly states (v5) that we need to let every man to be fully convinced in his own mind.  What that means is… Give people the space to come to their own conclusions and form their own convictions.  I can hear it now… “But I’ve given them 3 months and he still hasn’t cut his hair. “Well that’s just crazy! Do you expect people to make up their own mind? What if they don’t decide to give up _________, what then?  “I don’t think that she’ll stop wearing britches unless I talk to her about it.”  I know, right!!  Christian liberty is a dangerous thing.  Sticky stuff here, folks.  Which is precisely why we can’t get too far from Matthew 7… the splinter & the plank.

Brothers, we’ve lost sight of grace and become lost in our religion that emphasizes fancy footwork and performance.  Let’s get back to grace and leave the condemnation behind (Gal. 5:1). Just because you change doesn’t mean you’re compromising. Jesus was hated because he was too far ‘left’ for the Fundamentalists of his day… so that puts you in good company!

 

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

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Baptist Dysfunction #1

I have so encouraged to see a resurgence among young independent fundamental baptists calling for a revolution back to truth. It is encouraging to hear the stories from so many who are prayerfully seeking balance in their faith, their families, and their ministries.  For too long, legalists have ruled, dictators have oppressed, and ignorance prevailed. [If you’re a rebel, don’t click here.]

church_clipart_whiteI sincerely apologize if that sounds condescending – I know it’s hard to interpret tone on a blog – but I can vouch for the guy at the keyboard… it’s not at all condescending. I am very much a student. I am in process. I’m still growing – hopefully – toward Christ. But I do find issue with some things that many of my IFB friends continue to practice and preach. I have been silent, had quiet conversations with gentlemen in dark corners (okay, that’s a bit overstated and dramatic); but seriously, I feel like it’s time for me to step up and speak up…

I was raised on the old B-A-P-T-I-S-T acrostic.  The one that supposedly made us ‘distinctive’ in our faith. But as I’m reading and learning, I’m discovering that most -if not all- of these are not exactly as they seem. So, today I’m kicking off a 4- or 5-part discourse on our dysfunction. I will seek to be open and not authoritative, subjective and not snobbish, truthful but not negative. These first two deal with the F and the I of IFB…

B- Biblical Authority

Can I still be included as a “fundamentalist” – even if I don’t ascribe to all the extra standards? I had a preacher tell me once that the issue of women wearing pants should be included with the fundamentals (as in: biblical inerrancy, deity of Christ, etc). True story! Why can’t we fellowship if we aren’t exactly the same? (If Amos 3:3 applies like you say it does, then our churches should be a lot smaller.)  Speaking of that, why do we intentionally exclude people from our church?  For example, a friend’s church has a statement like this on their wall: “If you like the KJV, you’ll love this church!” What about someone who doesn’t know about Bible versions, will they love it? What if someone just loves the Lord, will they love your church… or just like it?  Why do we do that?  It sure doesn’t seem like the Bible is the ‘sole authority’ any more. (Speaking of the KJV, I’ve got Bible version questions, do you?) Seems more like Bible+ or Bible*! It’s as if I’m in the twilight zone and I’m the only one who sees that we are doing what we accused everyone else of.

We are not the only bastions of the truth. There IS more than one right way. Yes, there is right and wrong, black and white, and absolute truth. There are right ways to do things, just like there are wrong ways, but God’s will is not a tight-rope to be walked. Why am I saying this?  Because I was told many times that there was only one right way, but many wrong ways.  That’s nothing short of a lie.  God didn’t just create butterflies, He created over 12,000 varieties.  He loves variety.  Why do we demand sameness in our pursuit of unity and agreement?  Why do we force Borg-like assimilation? ‘Comply or be destroyed.’  Why is there no room for discussion, disagreement, or debate?  (More to come on this in the next few weeks… the P & I)

A – Autonomy of the Local Church

Why was I told that Southern Baptists (and other baptists, for that matter) are not autonomous? Unless you think autonomous means isolated, there are many other kinds of churches besides IFB which are self-governing. Baptists are not the only sovereign group. There are independent Christian churches, non-denom, and even autonomous protestants (settle down, that’s not an endorsement). When I was starting a church outside of Louisville, I was told there were no “gospel-preaching churches” in the county.  That was a lie! There were several.  Just because they aren’t IFB doesn’t mean they don’t have the gospel. I can name you at least 3-4 pastors in that county preaching the gospel and teaching evangelism (and practicing it). I regret not working with these great men many years earlier.  The tragedy is that I bought the lie that I couldn’t be ‘equally yoked’ with these men.  Lies!

IFB preachers are lonely and their fellowship meetings are growing boring. (Sorry for being Debbie Downer here, but we continue to isolate in the name of Biblical separation.)  There are great men who passionately love the Lord who are quickly discounted because they carry an ESV, sing a song written after 1950, or wear shorts in church. The term “ecclesiastical separation” has been egregiously misused and, therefore, been the tool of many a leader to abuse a congregation into cultish tendencies. Calling a man a heretic because he believes in God’s sovereignty and election (which are both Biblical terms) is sin. He is a brother – treat Him like one (but not like you treated your brother growing up, that probably wouldn’t be good!). I’m a firm believer in defending the truth, but destroying kingdom relationships and firing your #oldpaths bullets at brothers MUST cease.

Last year, I attended a conference where a prominent IFB pastor from Southern California was preaching.  He was very organized, very classy… until he proceeded to turn his message into a bash ‘Saddleback Sam’ (his words) session.  Three different times, he kept going back to it. Why? Is he jealous? Did RW do something to hurt him or his children? This guy isn’t fringe, he’s a leader.  He’s respected; his church is booming.  So why? When I wrote to him, he didn’t respond back.  I just don’t get it.

Conclusion

I’m NOT writing this to stir up stuff. In fact, for the last year, I’ve been almost totally out of the loop – and I LOVING it!  The P4G blog has sat quiet as I (and many other contributors) have been very busy for the kingdom, and that’s okay.  But two things have stirred this up in my heart: 1). Recent weddings/ funerals which have caused me to cross paths with several good brothers with genuine concerns;  2). Recent conversations with former church members with multiple questions about these very issues.

I am not a leader, so don’t follow me (Ha! Like I really needed to say that anyway!). I’ve found my tribe and it’s not in the IFB… although I’m still very much I, F, and B! So many men are considering deep questions. Questions that their peers don’t want to hear.  They are weighing the evidence. and nothing could be better for the movement. They shouldn’t have to choose between old paths and right paths!  Could a Truth-Revolution be on its way?

Feel free to leave a comment – a positive one. I’d love to hear how your pastor is different from the ones that I keep hearing about. Surprise me. Please be solution-oriented.  If indeed our movement is sinking, should a Christian jump ship or try to bail water? Is it too late or am I just not patient enough? What is the future of ‘fundamentalism?’  What do you think of this new fundamentalism?

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

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Raise the Standard!

Many churches define their rules as ‘standards.’ Some standards are given a higher ranking than others and are labeled ‘convictions’ while others which carry less weight are ‘preferences.’  Different churches, attempting to determine what is important based on the Bible, asserts these standards upon the congregation.  Some churches even create defining boundaries of fellowship and partnership with their standards.  But I firmly believe that our standards are too many and far too low…

Our Standards are Too Low!

A standard, by definition, is a sign or a banner used in wartime to rally the troops.  It is a symbol placed conspicuously to mark a point of direction.

For the church, our standard should be singular.  It should be Jesus Christ.  He is our banner (Exodus 17:15-16).  If there is one symbol that must mark our direction, it must be the cross!  We do a tragic disservice to our church and community when we place any lower standard than this (John 3:30)!

Jesus Christ is our goal (2 John 9).  If anything else is raised up as the rallying point to Christians, then something else will become the measuring stick for Christianity.  If anything besides the perfection of God (Matthew 5:48) is patterned, then each generation will model their own goodness and righteousness… leading to a slippery slope of decay from the inside-out.

Standards are what many churches measure their members up against… Is his hair short enough?  Is her skirt long enough? Their music has drums in it!  I heard they went to the movies!  He didn’t wear church clothes to church!  Their family went to the beach!  Did you know that he smokes?  Ahhhhhhh!  The list goes on and on… It is a shame that these rules (mostly man-made) have become the criteria / yardstick for sizing up a person’s spirituality.  Are these better than measurements than Christ himself?  Should we substitute some rule or line-in-the-sand for the Standard that has already been raised?

Yes, certain rules are profitable. (I am not an anarchist, by any means, nor do I endorse throwing the baby out with the bathwater.)  And yes, they can reveal a direction – either good or bad.  But these should never be the end, they are only by-products of the goal: Christ-likeness.  The end is not living up to standards, it is raising the Standard in my life to be like Christ.

Our Standards are Too Many!

Many churches do religion like the US Government does legislature: when a rule is broken or a loophole is found, it is time for more rules.  For example, there are now about 20,000 gun control laws in effect in America.  The answer is not more laws – but to get back to the intent of those laws in the first place.  Wouldn’t you agree?

That’s where the Pharisees got off track.  They were good guys.  Really good guys.  Yet Jesus condemned this group of very righteous, religious followers the hardest.  Why?  Because they let their rules get the best of them.  Rules about clothes.  Rules about church.  Rules about family.  Rules about pleasure.  Rules about everything.  They ended up getting so caught up in the rules, they lost sight of why they wanted to be a Pharisee to start with – love for the holiness of God.

See if some of my observations apply in your situation… Standards often give a false sense of spirituality.  Standards give credence to comparing yourself to others, which is not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12).  Standards focus on physical sins of the body instead of the spirit, which is far weightier in the New Testament (Matthew 15:11).  Standards can make people inappropriately accountable to a pastor / leader, bypassing the convicting role of the Holy Spirit.  An over-emphasis on standards makes room for the false accusation of ‘legalist’ to be applied.  Too many standards always create double-standards!

A Simple, Sensible Solution:

Make your standard singular… Jesus.  If you must have ‘standards,’ make sure every single one has a Biblical principle behind it.  One of holiness, of purity, of godliness, of separation.  Principles are timeless – they never change with the culture.  Here are a few principles that make sense:

1. Separation from the world – Christians are called to be Christ’s.  We should look, talk, and act like a child of God.  Being a Christian is something that should define you as a new creature in Christ.  (Romans 12:2, 13:4, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, James 4:4, 1 John 3:3)

2. Separation between the sexes – Our culture is in a gender crisis.  The distinction is being lost as the unisex movement takes over.  But God has given each male and female a unique identity and, with that identity, unique roles.  (Deuteronomy 22:5 is a perfect example.  Men should not be putting on a woman’s apron & trying to play mommy; while women should not work on a construction site or serve in the military!)

3. Separation from sin – Far too many Christians are comfortable with sinful entertainment, sinful habits, sinful lifestyles, sinful cravings, sinful words, etc.  Our inward convictions must drive us from our sinful behaviors.  (Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14)

4. Separation unto the LORD – True holiness is ‘unto the Lord’ and not just ‘from the world.’  Righteousness without humility is just prideful piety.  (2 Corinthians 6:17; Psalms 119:115; 1 Thessalonians 1:9)

For 4 Principles on Determining Questionable Things (gray areas) … click here.

 

Article by Patrick Nix

@patchnix

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