I say all this with the utmost respect. I read your opening statement about all the things you don't have. I very much appreciate a church (a body) that wishes to follow the pattern of the first-century church. I agree with your purpose and what God has to offer us is so much more than those "things" you mentioned you don't have. But your cover letter spends a fair amount of time talking about what you don't do, you almost seem proud of what you aren't. Some of those things you don't do, eat together (no kitchen), have family activities in a gym or banquet hall, etc, those are basically relationship builders. From what I see in the Bible, it's all about relationships, with God, brothers and sisters, family, workers, spouses, etc. Didn't Jesus have have "activities" while he was among the people? He ate with them, had get-togethers (Mary and Martha's house), fishing together, went to the market to buy food, etc. Of course, Jesus was very purposeful and I love your reference to Ephesians 3:10-11 which was a lot of what Jesus was here for. I do understand your intentions with your comments and agree we can't lose sight of why we are here. But it seems like you want to suck the joy out of being a Christ-follower. Again, I say all this humility and with respect to you.
In the first century church, they ate together (Scriptures on communion and eating, not waiting on each other) it was at someone's home so I would think, if they loved each other, they socialized some, young mothers asking older ones about raising kids and how to make a better lamb chop. Men talked of work, politics, and the weather, just like they do now. The children played games in the courtyard of the home. They live with each other as they learned to subject themselves to Christ
Again, I wholeheartedly agree with our purpose, with the purpose you talk about in your opening statement in some parts I just don't see the harm in a Boy Scout group in the building; how better to get the lost close enough to teach? Without assuming too much, I would humbly ask, how many non-family members did your members led to Christ last year? Because if your members truly act out your statement, I would wonder if non-believers would see anything of interest to them, still being immature and selfish. Again, I apologize and do not intend to be too critical of you since I haven't met you, but I was looking and I did "meet" your web site opening statement.
The final statement, in our culture today, how much success have you had knocking doors or having a gospel meeting, probably not much? Today, it seems like to me, people want to build relationships, they want to belong to something, they crave connections. As you work on getting them connected, you also give them hope, love, purpose, learning (all from the Bible). Build a relationship as you teach them the wonders of God, some of which you mentioned.
The reason I looked up your web site is from a Google search I did on "Judgment Day" and I wanted to give you a hearty compliment and thank you for the great articles you have. I've have enjoyed reading some of them; they are very good, and I am looking forward to reading many more. They are well written, very scriptural and you have quite a vast selection. Very helpful. Thank you for the time you have to spend in study and prayer to produce these articles and thanks to God for the wisdom He has blessed you with.
It may not sound like it, but
A humble servant
Actually, the home page is fairly balanced between what we do and what we are not. It is because we readily admit that we are not what people have come to expect of a church that you are both shocked and focusing on what doesn't meet your expectations. That is fine with me. That is what the home page was written to accomplish. It got you thinking.
What is interesting is how you filled in the blanks with assumptions that are not there. Because we didn't spend the Lord's money on putting a kitchen in the building, you assumed that we don't eat together. Nothing is further from the truth. We get together frequently and regularly for meals and social time. It is just done by the members, not by the church because that is what you find in the New Testament.
One of the problems you are running into is that you don't distinguish between individual action and church action. Yet, God does make a distinction. As an example, in the care for widows, there are different rules given for the individual than for the church. "If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows" (I Timothy 5:16). We follow the New Testament and place individual responsibilities on individuals and church responsibilities on churches.
What I find sad is that you think you have to have unauthorized institutionalized activities in order to have joy.
By the way, you are mixing ideas that are not mixed in the New Testament. Communion is not a social meal. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread" (I Corinthians 10:16-17). The communion is the sharing of the memorial meal that Jesus' instituted, which we call the Lord's Supper. It isn't a common mean, but a special memorial of the New Covenant. "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins"" (Mathew 26:26-28). Paul spent a good bit of discussion in I Corinthians 11:17-34 proving that the Lord's Supper was not a common meal and should not be treated as such. That is the reason he said the partakers were to wait for one another. "Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you. ... Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come" (I Corinthians 11:20-22, 33-34).
Why don't we stoop to using social activities to draw people in? Mostly because the Lord said not to. When people chased Jesus after he fed the five thousand, Jesus scolded them. "Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled"" (John 6:26). We offer people spiritual food, and you believe that isn't enough. We offer people the gospel of Jesus Christ and you think that it won't interest people. "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me" (John 6:44-45).
"For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (I Corinthians 1:21).
What it is all about is saving people from sin. Food and social activities won't do that. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16). We have fun, we enjoy each other's company, but we don't let ourselves lose focus that as a church our duty is a rescue mission "to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church" (Ephesians 3:10).
As I skimming your reply to me, let me say I had planned to apologize. After considering my original email I thought I had overstepped my knowledge and the intentions of the body there in La Vista. Picking up on some of your words, I quickly find that you too make assumptions and it seems to me you still have a small bit of an attitude. However, I believe it's probably not so much of an attitude and just a simple proclamation of your prescribed belief, which is a good thing. Actually, I cannot and really did not say you were wrong; the first-century church in Scripture is a great example of what we should do today.
I still want to apologize for my original email, I was interested in what you said, but I also have some reluctance about some of your possible views. I am a member of a large church of Christ, so we would probably cause you some grief with some of our practices. I cannot spend any more time right now discussing this with you. But if you don't mind, I will read your email and think about what you said and then I would like to make some more comments and ask some more questions. I'll try to leave the assumptions out. Again, if you are willing, I would like to continue our talk if you have the time.
One last thing, I read about 50 of the articles, question and answers, and sermons from your web site on heaven, hell, judgment day, the second coming and found them to be absolutely aligned with what I believe and that is rare for the huge number thoughts out there on these topics. These were great thoughts, great use of scripture, well done. So I also wanted to thank you for a great deal of knowledge you have on your web site. You should write a book.
Well, I've written about fifteen books so far; I doubt they will ever appear on anyone's best seller's lists. If you are interested they are listed under Studies.
Years ago, I started listening to a radio commentator named Rush Limbaugh. He just started broadcasting out of New York City near where I was living at the time. He made me uncomfortable because he sounded so prideful, but everything else on the radio was worse, so I listened for a while. Then I got amused because I realized that Mr. Limbaugh was actually a fairly humble man. He just spoke his beliefs with confidence and some purposeful humor that left a listener assuming things that weren't really said. Perhaps over the years, I've picked up a similar trait.
Then too, the medium of writing is harder to temper expression. We are so used to body language and verbal tones that, again, we fill in the blanks and often do so inaccurately.
My general rule is to match the tone of my response to the tone of the question (or challenge), based on Proverbs 26:4-5, "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes." Not that I think you or anyone else writing is a fool, but it is the principle that intrigues me. I found that it surprises people to hear their own tone echo backed to them. Most respond well, realizing what had happened. For others, it seems to draw out their true nature.
I take it that you are a member in what is typically called a "mainstream" congregation, while I am a part of a conservative group. I have friends and family on both sides. I don't mind discussing any question if you don't mind that it sometimes takes me a while to respond.