One of our regular blog commentators asked that we discuss the topic of the local church and how the local church in New Testament times might be different to the local church in our modern world. This might a deeply personal issue for many of us who may have either been hurt or disappointed by our own experience of church, or perhaps have found it to be a life-saving and cherished place. So it is not a trivial topic or academic exercise to talk about. Interestingly, I have felt the Lord wants to teach me about this recently. My thoughts are still jumbled on this, but I thought I would put in a slightly messy introductory post to start the conversation. I plan to post my more fully developed thoughts on this later – maybe the interaction here will help that along. Most importantly I would like to know – is your experience of church everything you would like it to be? Is it what you think God wants it to be? If not, why? Please comment and share your experiences, questions or views and check out this funny video called Parody of a modern church service.
My head is covered in a garden of unruly curls. Sometimes they fall in ringlets around my face and sometimes they turn into a cloud of frizz which gives me a natural halo – haha. Due to the unpredictability of the portable garden on top of my head, I recently found myself prowling the children’s aisle in a local shop looking for some aids to tame it. As I stood in front of an array of pink clips, butterfly Alice-bands and leopard-print scrunchies, I spied my heart’s desire sitting quite out of view on the lowest shelf – small, clear crocodile clips that would train my curls to form flowing tresses through rain or shine. I was excited! And yet, these discrete “gardeners” got my thinking… thinking about dominion, man’s dominion, and whether it would be right to say that I was exercising dominion over my hair.
One of the first things that I have to make a decision on when I meet a person is in which one of three spiritual “categories” he/she falls. This decision will have a profound influence on my dealings with the person. The categories are simple: True Believer, Nominal Christian and Non-Believer.
Dealing with True Believers and with Non-Believers is quite straightforward. The new testament is full of instructions and examples on how to do this:
In his sermon on the mount Jesus gave many practical guidelines on dealing with Non-Believers, and when praying with his disciples shortly before the crucifixion (in the gospel of John), Jesus spoke about how believers must love each other. There are also plenty of guidelines in the epistles about how we are to live with other True Believers.
But dealing with Nominal Christians can become complicated very quickly. Especially if they are overtly living in sin. Jesus said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” For me the acid test to determine whether or not someone is a true believer is to simply ask whether their day-to-day lives are in accordance with Jesus’ commands.
I find it very disturbing when a person overtly lives in sin, such as sexual immorality, drunkenness or homosexuality, yet claims to be a Christian. I need no incentive to not be friends with such a person – I don’t want to.
But sometimes “evading” such people are sadly not an option. Examples: my one friend is in a cell group with a guy who is living with his girlfriend. I have recently started dating a girl who’s sister is doing the same thing (while claiming that they are both Christians, and that they pray together and so and so.)
I find it tricky to deal with this situation, and I would like your guys’ input on how you understand scripture concerning this.