To jump to the first post in this series click here.
Before we move onto the next two distinctives let me briefly comment on feed back that I got from the first post. Several people came to me frustrated. They thought I was arguing for “no leadership” in the church; some sort of anarchy model…uber-individualism if you will. I found the feedback incredibly interesting. Is it that we have become used to this one leadership style (a central figure head whose primary roles are preaching and “casting vision”) that we can’t imagine anything else? When I’m done with these I will address leadership in the New Testament. I’m in no terms an expert or highly experienced in the field (my 32 years of wisdom are impressive, I know); but as with most topics, I do have a theory I am currently testing.
So, back to Baptist distinctives.
3. Jesus is Lord – Salvation comes by faith in Christ through the grace provided by His death and resurrection. It is not a product of works, nor are you born into it. We believe that one finds salvation by confessing he/she is a sinner and surrendering his/her life tot he Lordship of Jesus; an act made possible only by Christ’s death and resurrection.
Okay, this one is a gimme for both sides. I’m not about to start judging whether someone’s faith is works-based or grace-centered. I’ll rag on practice all day; but I’m not challenging the authenticity of a group’s relationship with God.
On a side note – I love the Great Commission Resurgence focus on Jesus. (For those that don’t know what that is, I’m in deep Baptist water now.) I just hope it is more than talk.
The Thingy – 3 / Normal Church – 1
(Yes. I know. It’s shocking. I gave the Normal Church a point. To quote Emporer Commodus in Gladiator, “Am I not merciful?!?” Your welcome Normal Church.)
4. Sole Competency – Each person is responsible for his/her own relationship with Christ. We are all individually accountable before God.
This is similar to the Priesthood of Believers, but I shall attack it from a different angle.
So we have this system of worship that has been in place for a long time. So long, I believe it is now assumed and no longer questioned.
We, the average Baptist, come to a building once a week and sit down facing a stage. A band, singer, or conductor of some sort takes the stage to lead us in songs prepared earlier in the week. Some of these songs are for us to join in, some are simply for us to listen to. In between songs various people come forward to pray, or read something, or bring announcements. Then the keynote speaker ascends the platform and “teaches” for anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour and a half. (I put “teaches” in quotes because usually the intent is not that people learn, but rather that they are inspired to live in a specific way; thus sermons should be called “teaching” only loosely. They are more like motivational speeches.) Finally we all go home.
In most churches I have participated in and watched this “service” was the primary activity. (Again, not sure where the “service” portion plays into what I just described.) It is where the vast majority of our resources, energy, focus, and planning go. It is the primary thing we measure. And, sadly, whether or not we attend it regularly is the determining factor concerning our membership. If you come to the show, you are a member (a.k.a. – have a productive relationship with Christ). If you don’t come to the show, your faith is in question.
Here is the crazy thing. The whole goofy layout usually takes less than 10% of the people in the congregation to pull off. The vast majorities participation is minimal at best, more often down right passive.
Here is what makes me sad.
We the people have comfortably taken a back seat in our faith. We have gladly handed the responsiblity of our relationship with God over to a select 10%. We have said through our acceptance of this system, “You specially gifted few who connect with God. We will sit, watch, and do what you say.” We are couch potato Christians that, instead of taking responsiblity for our own faith, sacrifice our individuality and come before God instead as members of mob.
Being part of a mob has its benefits. It frees us from having to think on our own. We just go where the mob goes. It frees us our time and energy for other pursuits. Being part of a mob takes much less time than joining a mission. Finally, it releases us from individual accountability. “Hey, I was caught up in the mob.”
Mob Christianity is anti Soul Competency…or so it would seem.
But I don’t think God sees it that way. I have a feeling a bunch of us are going to come before Him and He is going to ask, “What did you do with all the cool stuff I gave you?” And we are going to reply, “I was a faithful member of First Baptist Yada-Yada.” And He is going to say, “Cool. But what did you do with all the cool stuff I gave you.”
We began the Thingy with a fierce questioning of this system. At the Thingy no one sits. No one watches. Everyone is all in.
We often confuse the mob for community. They are not the same thing.
The Thingy – 4 / Normal Church – 1
To be continued…