bits from bob....

What Does This Church Believe About....? (#1)

by Robert J. Young
©, 2002, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

During a recent Bible study I was asked, "What does this church believe about alcohol and drug abuse?" The young man with whom I was studying was baptized soon after, and the question would have been forgotten, except....that young man has already returned to the world.

I believe that young man was really interested in discovering whether this church believed in forgiveness enough to forgive him and accept him. His question remains a haunting one. "What does this church believe about ________?" Any one of multiplied words or phrases could be inserted in the blank.

When such a question is posed, how do we respond? We often take the opportunity to tell the inquirer that the church doesn't believe anything. (A dangerous statement when taken at face value. I'm not certain most questioners have the foggiest notion what we're trying to communicate when we say this.) What we usually mean is something like, "This church doesn't have a creed. Each individual believer is a priest before God and accountable to God." We may also add that we believe only what the Bible says.

Careful reflection would likely betray us. Most churches do have official positions and beliefs, if those beliefs are nothing other than the beliefs of the elders or preacher. Many churches deny the autonomy reflected by individual priesthood. Many churches also deny in practice the autonomy of local congregations. Since the elders and preachers among us cannot agree on every detail of what the Bible says, honesty demands we admit at least in some areas, "what the Bible says" is actually "how we understand the Bible."

Our ability to be Christ's church, effectively communicating the gospel to our contemporary twenty-first century culture, hinges upon our ability to give biblical answers in four foundational areas. The church must know what it believes and then live out those beliefs.

We must, individually and corporately, understand worship. We must worship. What is worship? What does this church believe about worship? What do you believe about worship? Is worship time?-place?-person?-activity?-corporate?-individual? How does worship balance action and attitude? What does the Bible say about worship when attitudes are warped? What does worship say about God, Christ, human nature and the dilemma posed by sin? How does the biblical instruction concerning worship correlate to God's nature, humanity's fallenness, and the essential need to reaffirm reconciliation? Since God has reached down to his human creation in Christ Jesus, how does humanity appropriately reach up to God? Is worship vertical?- horizontal?-both?-both simultaneously? Do you worship daily? Should you? Could you?

A biblical understanding of worship would fix a lot of problems! If we understand biblical worship, many brothers and sisters will reach out to one another to heal hurts, misunderstandings, grudges, and hard feelings (Matt. 5:21-24; 18:15-18). When the church understands worship, we may be able to quit asking how many of God's children have listened to God each day ("How many daily Bible readers?"). When worship is understood as the natural result of gratitude in lives redeemed by the blood of the Lamb from the terrible darkness of a sin-sick world, inquiry concerning prayer or Bible study will be trite. Focus will be on the one being worshiped more than the worshipers. Trite questions of posture, correct sequences, and cultural methodology will be "lost in wonder, love, and praise." Attendance problems will largely disappear. Of course God's redeemed worship him! It is only natural.

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Last updated January 7, 2002.