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Thanks for visiting the website! This month’s picture is of a group of church leaders, most of them are from newly established churches, Neyba, Dominican Republic, March 2019. [Click picture to enlarge.]

Haitian church leaders

Ministry and mission work is a team effort -- Jan and I have shared the task of ministry and mission work for over 50 years! Countless people have encouraged us, supported us, loved us, and prayed for us. In addition to the customary "Brother Bob" or "Hermano Bob," I am also known as dad and papaw in my family. One of my favorite breakfasts is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good hot sauce and a cup of rich Colombian coffee! My greatest joy in life is being part of the kingdom; my #1 priority is to advance "kingdom things" and to help develop authentic "kingdom people." I seek to share the good news about Jesus everywhere I go, helping people find Jesus and helping people mature as disciples of Jesus. One of the greatest blessings of my life is to be loved by countless people around the world!


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Archive for the ‘Doctrine’ Category

Weak Doctrine = Weak Christians

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

I have been reviewing some of the articles I have written over the past couple of years. Two articles reflect the importance of doctrine: Doctrine Matters and Thin Doctrine.

Non-Christians want something to know, to live by, to depend on. Unchurched people expect churches to have a belief system–to know what they believe and why. Because non-Christians expect churches to have a belief system to guide life, doctrine is important, even a prerequisite, for effective evangelism. Lack of evangelism often signifies lack of doctrinal certainty. When the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who goes to battle?

Some Christians think that doctrine hinders evangelism rather than enhancing it. In our contemporary culture where tolerance is glorified, some Christians shy away from doctrinal certainty. Such is a grave error. If the teachings of the Bible cannot be known with certainty, we are at sea, wandering without direction, foundering with no solid footing. The church must have a vibrant, valid voice in the uncertainties of today’s world. If the church cannot provide foundations, why “do” church?

Not only is doctrine important to the unchurched person, it is also important that Christians know what they believe and why. The Christian who lacks a well-defined belief system is unlikely to realize a well-defined Christian walk. Christians who are not certain what the Bible teaches, or whether the teachings of Scripture are important or matter, often lack sufficient motivation or commitment for basic Christian ethics or activities.

Have you observed any connection between doctrine and levels of involvement?
Have you known strong Christians who were doctrinally uncertain?

Francis Shaeffer on “Doctrine”

Friday, June 8th, 2012

(Francis Schaeffer, The Mark of the Christian, Downers Grove: IVP, 1970, p. 16)

“The church is to judge whether a man is a Christian on the basis of his doctrine, the propositional content of his faith. When a man comes before a local church that is doing its job, he will be quizzed on the content of what he believes. If, for example, the church is conducting a heresy trial (the New Testament indicates there are to be heresy trials in the church of Christ), the question of heresy will turn on the content of the man’s doctrine. The church has a right to judge, in fact it is commanded to judge, a man on the content of what he believes and teaches.”

Do you agree or disagree? How thorough are elders in checking the beliefs of ministers they hire? How thoroughly do churches check the doctrine of those they entrust with the task of teaching the word? When have you heard a preacher hold forth a teaching or doctrine that caused you to raise your eyebrows? Does it happen more frequently now than in the past? Does doctrine matter, or is that an “old doctrine” that is no longer valid?

An Outsider’s Perspective: Why the Churches of Christ Were Right After All

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

One of my former students at Ohio Valley University, Mark Tonkery, sent me the link below.
The article deserves wider circulation–I hope you enjoy it and profit from it. Let us see ourselves more clearly–warts and all! (Read the comments too!) The article was written by Ted Campbell, Associate Professor Church History, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.
Here is the link: Why the Churches of Christ were Right After All.

Back to the Basics

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

My religious heritage has a strong focus on correct doctrine. Many in my religious heritage claim to retain the essentials and discard the peripheral. In the words of Romans 14, to properly define the things that are disputable and to give freedom in those areas not central to faith in Christ. Any person who interprets Scripture through this framework must periodically evaluate whether non-essentials have slowly crept into the faith corpus and have been misdefined.

IMPORTANT QUESTIONS. If all I had was the Bible, and I were to read the Bible with the intention of doing what God put me here to do, with the intention of pleasing God and doing his will, what would that look like? Would I keep living my life as I currently do, or would some aspects of my life change radically? When I read in the New Testament that Jesus’ disciples after his death became part of a church, and if I wanted to be part of that same church, what would that church look like? Would it look like most of the Christian churches in our world today, the church that we humans have reasoned out and built here on earth? Would it be defined by its place or location, and by its organization, to be like this thing that we refer to as church? Or would it look radically different? What are the basics?

Assuming for a moment that we might understand some correct (biblical) answers to such questions by considering the nature of things–our Triune God, humankind, spiritual and physical reality, where would those considerations lead us? What is God like? What is the reality of his visible creation? What is the reality of his invisible creation? What is his human creation like? What purposes of God can we discern in the answers to these questions? One must take time to ponder these questions and to discern correct answers. I invite your conversations and comments. What follows is not an attempt to short-circuit the discovery process, but to suggest something of where we will likely need to go.

The purpose of human creation is to fear God and keep his commandments. God made humankind to be like him, in his image, but the clear image bestowed in creation was lost in the Fall. Reflecting the image became much more difficult, even impossible, for human beings. What was needed was a re-creation, which God accomplished through Jesus Christ, and a sustainability of that re-creation which God accomplished through the giving of his Spirit.

FEAR GOD. God made us for relationship with him, in his image and likeness, to be blessed and to bless. He made us to bring his rule to visible physical creation, with the intent that his human creation would thus participate with him in glory and holiness, in dominion and full, abundant life. To understand this intent of God requres that human beings recognize God for who he is, and that they recognize their own created nature in his image and participants in the divine nature.
God wants to be recognized for who he is. Recognizing God’s nature and supremacy will lead all creation to respect him–to adore and praise and worship him. This is a first response, but does not reflect the totality of God’s purpose and desire for human beings.

FOLLOW JESUS. Ultimately, fallen humanity cannot experience re-creation and restored relationship with God without a visible, physical example of the possibilities of the invisible spiritual world. God sent Jesus so that relationship might be restored, but also so that human beings could have an example to follow, a demonstration of the possibilities of human existence. Human existence in the biological realm is not the whole of life. Human beings were created also as spiritual beings. Our biological or physical bodies only allow us to reside on this planet. Our existence is not defined by the visible, physical realities we see and experience. In fact, these are only temporary, and we can exist apart from the visible created bodies we use to identify ourselves and to distinguish ourselves.
Jesus came perfectly balancing what it means to be spirit beings who live in a physical world. Jesus became full participant with us in our humanity, emptying himself, becoming like us, experiencing the physical death that entered the world as a result of sin, and demonstrating his power over death so that restoration of relationship and eternal existence with the Father is declared possible. In his death on the cross, our struggle with sin, with death, and with the future is solved. In his resurrection and ascension is declared our possibilities.
God wishes us to follow Jesus, to learn from him (to be disciples), and to imitate him so that we reflect God’s glory.

BE FILLED WITH HOLY SPIRIT. God did not re-create us and once again leave us to our struggles, hoping that we might succeed where humanity formerly failed. Through his Spirit he gives us his presence and confirmation and reminders of his purpose. Through his Spirit he empowers our lives and our testimony. Through his Spirit, he guarantees his promise of our inheritance, providing presence when we feel distance, e.g. as the Holy Spirit powers our prayer life.

We become like God in each of these manifestations of his reality–one God, revealed in distinct personalities, making possible that we reach the peak of our possibilities according to his purpose. We become like God as we become like what we worship, we become like Jesus as disciples, we become like God’s Spirit and stride forward toward the invisible, spiritual realm as the ultimate expression of God’s purpose for us, a place where his rule and reign in our lives and in all creation will once and for all be restored.

Doctrine Matters

Monday, May 5th, 2008

Those who study religion and its impact in our society continue to surface helpful, and at times surprising, research results. A recent report indicated that people who see themselves as lost and out of Christ think doctrine is very important. Of those who admitted that they were lost and without Christ (generally without a church home), a majority indicated that it was important to them to know up front what a church believes and teaches. This communicates their realization that not all churches are alike. It also communicates that they place a high value on finding a church with acceptable teachings (doctrines). A third point of interest is that they want a church that will be consistent and not waver in those beliefs or doctrines.

Asked specifically, over 91% indicated that doctrine is important. This news may not be as good as it seems at first glance, for what they are saying is not that the content of the doctrine matters, but that churches must be uncompromising and clear in their doctrine.

Since this may seem to contradict what we are reading about our increasingly pluralistic and theologically tolerant culture, an illustration will help clarify. I remember a family who were baptized in a church where I ministered. When I asked them what they thought about the church’s non-use of instruments of music in worship, they replied, “Every church has the right to set the order of worship and to demand that people comply. If that is what this church believes, that’s alright with us.” Note their belief that the right to interpret Scripture is the right of every church. They had little if any awareness of objective truth. In this view, the church controls worship, not the Bible. Their only expectation was that the church should know what it believes and practice it without allowing compromise. The results of the research are not suggesting a reversal of the pluralism and tolerance, only that many unbelievers and “pre-Christians” are uncomfortable in a situation where they do not clearly know what to believe and what to practice. Such individuals for the most part would affirm the right of others to believe and practice differently.

What this research means for the church is that visitors to our assemblies want to discover among us truth and conviction. They seek a clear message from God. Then they will decide whether it is a message they are willing to accept, or if they will continue their search for a church home. In the research, growing churches are those that speak clearly in doctrinal matters. Doctrine matters, not only to God, but to many in our world. People what to know what we believe, they want to see that we genuinely believe it as reflected in our lives, and they want to see how that doctrine is lived out in our loving relationships. That means that we must be clear about what we believe, consistent in how we live our beliefs, and caring in our relationships. These three concepts are interrelated.

  • We must be clear about what we believe. We must have a faith that is convicted of truth. We must do more than believe, we must with conviction base our lives on that truth.
  • We must be consistent in our lifestyles. We must adhere to a distinctive code of conduct which grows out of our convictions and beliefs.
  • We must be caring in our relationships. This not only informs the nature of the fellowship of God’s people; it also calls us to continue zealously to reach out to others.

What church will reach out effectively without a clear understanding that eternal salvation is only through Christ and that those without Christ are eternally condemned? Churches that are lukewarm in their doctrinal beliefs do not attract unchurched people. Compromise may be the rule in our society, but people expect more when they go to church. People value doctrine because our society is in search of absolutes. People what to learn truth, know truth, live truth–even when they believe that truth may be different for another person. The research suggests that clear, consistent, caring teaching will bring people to church and keep them there.

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