“Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions”, by Gregory Koukl

Over the past few weeks I have had time to read “Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions” not once, but twice already. Author Gregory Koukl does an excellent job breaking down simple concepts to clearly explain biblical truths in an easy manner, tackles complex subjects with open honesty and in all does a fine job boosting ones confidence to boldly explain their faith. It is a perennial challenge to grow your faith to the willing point of reasonable discourse. If you’re looking for a nice addition to your print or digital work, check this one out

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions

“You May Now Kiss the Bride” by Cindy Dunagan

via Focus Magazine, No. 98, April, 2008.

Sexual purity. What virtue is more difficult to instill in our teenagers than purity of heart? No one needs to tell you we are living in an ultra-sexualized culture where your teenagers will be continually surrounded with sexual temptation. This roaring lion (I Peter 5:8-9) is a computer click, radio station button, and TV channel away. Many of the ones your teens will spend the day with at school are not only sexually active — they are advertising themselves as so. It is no wonder we are losing more teenagers to fornication than any other temptation. I am the mother of a seventeen-year-old son and a sixteen-year-old daughter, and I share your concern — yet there is good news.

Recently I attended two weddings where the bride and groom experienced their first kiss together on their wedding day upon the words, “You may now kiss your bride.” The first time I attended such a wedding, despite being relatively well acquainted with the family, I did not know until sometime after the wedding that this vibrant, college-age couple had made such a goal. With the second couple, I only knew of their commitment to this atypical standard because we are very close friends with the family. Both couples were clearly motivated by a sincere desire to honor God and one another by making this sacrifice. Neither reflected an arrogant or “holier than thou” attitude. How admirable.

Shortly after one of these weddings, my daughter posted a little survey on her blog, which read,

[This couple] courted for a year and didn’t kiss before they were married…. What are your thoughts on what is appropriate physical affection before marriage? How will your children be raised to date/court compared to how you were raised? Do you ever wish your dating/ courting years were more or less physically involved?

As would be expected, responses varied greatly. One stated she could never resist kissing because she enjoys it way too much. I could see her point. What is not to like? Another respected those who chose not to kiss, but had once broken up with someone because she realized by kissing her boyfriend she was not physically attracted to him.

A mother of a bride wrote,

Not kissing before marriage was her choice, not our rule. But she came to the decision after reading about courtship, and deciding that purity begins in the mind and heart, and they need to be educated. [My husband] and I dated for a year before we were married, and did kiss. After reading the same things [my daughter] did, educating myself and looking back, I wish we had waited too. It’s a piece of your purity that is precious and should be saved.

How wise for this mother to realize that the only way her daughter was able to successfully achieve her goal was that it was deeply part of her own heart, and not something that was only valued in the hearts of her parents.
One young bride wrote,

[My husband] and I didn’t kiss before “you may kiss the bride” …it made our dating relation-ship unique to the others that we have had and made our relationship so much more than physical attraction. It also made our wedding day even more anticipated. However, I don’t believe that it is wrong to kiss your boyfriend/ girlfriend… but I wouldn’t change our decision if I had to do it over again!

She went on to explain that both she and her husband had previously kissed other people. How encouraging to be reminded that although a girl has kissed in her past, if she decides to save the rest of her kisses for her future husband, she can!

Another bride also had wise advice for those who would start afresh:

[My husband] and I kissed before we were married — but at a point in our relationship, we had to make the decision that we needed to stop because it was becoming a focus in the relationship. As we got to know each other better and learned to balance stuff in our relationship, we were able to gradually reintroduce it. … [My husband] was the only guy I’ve ever kissed and I feel like it’s a very special thing. I think it depends on the individual couple — if kissing is the focus of the relationship, it’s not a good thing. I think I definitely want to teach my kids that they shouldn’t devalue themselves or the importance of relationships by kissing every person willy-nilly.

What are some practical steps successful parents have taken to encourage purity in their teenagers?

  • Nurture a chose relationship with your teens and enjoy your relationship with them. Your opinion should be the most important influence as they are deciding whom they will date, and how they will date.
  • Sit down with your teens and discuss or even list the ways teens show affection in their relationships and where they have determined to draw the line to keep their own hearts pure. Lack of communication, gray lines, and blurry standards can lead to compromise and excuses.
  • List with your teens all the blessings and benefits you can think of for guarding one’s purity, and as many specific consequences for sexual compromise you can think of.
  • Delay dating years as long as possible. When your teens do date, consider confining it to double or group dating, or better yet, primarily in the presence of family.
  • Read books with your teens such as Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye (also available on DVD), which is really more about dating wisely than not dating at all. Another popular Josh Harris book is Boy Meets Girl. You probably will not agree with everything the author proposes in either book, but many successful families have found these books chock-full of practical, wise advice and motivation to present our bodies as instruments of righteousness (Romans 12:1-2).
  • Only allow media and technology in your house that does not put a stumbling block in the way of your teenagers. If you allow a MySpace blog, visit it frequently, and let them know in a friendly way you will be doing so. Many Christians are allowing http://www.pleonast.com as a safer alternative. Avoid televisions and computers in bedrooms. Even with parental controls and blockers, the spiritual disadvantages often far outweigh the advantages.
  • Many families present to their teens, on the birthday that marks for them the beginning of their dating years, a “purity ring” symbolizing their son or daughter’s promise to God and himself or herself to remain pure. It is often given by the father and is worn until it is replaced with a wedding ring. The ring is saved as an heirloom to give to the son or daughter’s own child one day. While the ring obviously has no inherent power, like a wedding ring, it is a reminder of a very holy commitment.

I see guarding the purity of our hearts when we are so very much in love with our future spouse as one of the most challenging expectations from God. Yet the reward of choosing to replace physical intimacy with emotional, mental, and spiritual intimacy during courtship has a definite advantage. It prevents the natural progression of lust, which by its nature grows more and more alluring. Not playing with lust also gives couples better clarity as to whether they are together for more substantial reasons than sexual chemistry, thus allowing a deep, real love to develop. Although it puts stress on the relationship to deny oneself the fun of kissing, it is less stressful than feeling guilt, being dishonest with parents, and trying to stop the lust that can feel like a speeding train, which so often follows kissing. No one is saying that it is always sinful to kiss, yet many wise young people are discovering a clear spiritual advantage to staying off “first base” altogether, in order to avoid “second and third base.”

Each and every one of us was created with no greater desire than to love and be loved. God promises in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” The two couples whose weddings I attended are beautiful and refreshing examples of love, self-control, and the full joy God wants for each of us. The word of God is powerful and by it you too can raise teenagers whose faith is stronger than the pull of sexual temptation.

Called to Lead: 26 Leadership Lessons from the Life of the Apostle Paul, by John MacArthur

Another valuable read, though at times sprinkled with his own denominational leanings. John MacArthur is a noted author and provides a nice counter piece on developing leadership. He pulls away from the common cyclical themes shown in most corporate/business focused works and seeks to present a Biblical model of success. With his emphasis on Paul we can hopefully learn some vital principles to help those who lead, lead well.
available at Amazon: Called to Lead: 26 Leadership Lessons from the Life of the Apostle Paul

What’s so uncool about cool churches? by Matt Marino

Unintended Consequences: How the “relevant” church and segregating youth is killing Christianity.

I recently spent six-months doing a rotation as a hospital chaplain. One day I received a page (Yes, hospitals actually still use pagers). Chaplains are generally called to the rooms of people who look ill: People gray with kidney disease, or yellow with liver failure, discouraged amputees, nervous cancer patients. In this room, however, was a strikingly attractive 23 year-old young lady sitting up cheerfully in the hospital bed, holding her infant daughter and chatting with family and friends.

Confused, I stepped outside and asked her nurse, “Why did I get paged to her room?”

“Oh, she looks fabulous. She also feels great and is asking to go home,” the nurse said.

“…And you are calling me because?” I asked in confusion.

The nurse looked me directly in the eye and said: “Because we will be disconnecting her from life support in three days and you will be doing her funeral in four.”

The young lady had taken too much Tylenol. She looked and acted fine. She even felt fine, but she was in full-blown liver failure. She was dying and couldn’t bring herself to accept the diagnosis.

Today I have the sense that we are at the same place in the church. The church may look healthy on the outside, but it has swallowed the fatal pills. The evidence is stacking up: the church is dying and, for the most part, we are refusing the diagnosis.

What evidence? Take a gander at these two shocking items:

1. 20-30 year olds attend church at 1/2 the rate of their parents and ¼ the rate of their grandparents. Think about the implication for those of us in youth ministry: Thousands of us have invested our lives in reproducing faith in the next generation and the group we were tasked with reaching left the church when they left us.

2. 61% of churched high school students graduate and never go back! (Time Magazine, 2009) Even worse: 78%  to 88% of those in youth programs today will leave churchmost to never return. (Lifeway, 2010) Please read those last two statistics again. Ask yourself why attending a church with nothing seems to be more effective at retaining youth than our youth programs.

We look at our youth group now and we feel good. But the youth group of today is the church of tomorrow, and study after study after study suggests that what we are building for the future is…

…empty churches.

We build big groups and count “decisions for Christ,” but the Great Commission is not to get kids to make decisions for Jesus but to make disciples for Him. We all want to make Christians for life, not just for high school. We have invested heavily in youth ministry with our lives specifically in order engage youth in the church. Why do we have such a low return on our investment?

What are we doing in our Youth Ministries that might be making people less likely to attend church as an adult?

What is the “pill” we have overdosed on? I believe it is “preference.” We have embraced the idea of market-driven youth ministry. Unfortunately, giving people what they “prefer” is a road, that once you go down it, has no end. Tim Elmore in his 2010 book entitled Generation iY calls this “the overindulged Generation.” They ask for more and more, and we give it to them. And more and more the power of God is substituted for market-driven experience. In an effort to give people something “attractive” and “relevant” we embraced novel new methods in youth ministry, that 20 years later are having a powerful shaping effect on the entire church. Here are the marks of being market-driven; Which are hallmarks of your ministry?

  1. Segregation. We bought into the idea that youth should be segregated from the family and the rest of the church. It started with youth rooms, and then we moved to “youth services.” We ghettoized our children! (After all, we are cooler than the older people in “big church”. And parents? Who wants their parents in their youth group?) Be honest: Have you ever thought you know more than your your student’s parents? Have you ever thought your youth group was cooler than “big church”?
  2. Big = effective. Big is (by definition) program driven: Less personal, lower commitment; a cultural and social thing as much as a spiritual thing. Are those the values that we actually hold?
  3. More programs attended = stronger disciples. The inventors of this idea, Willow Creek, in suburban Chicago, publically repudiated this several years ago. They discovered that there was no correlation between the number of meetings attended and people’s spiritual maturity. They learned the lesson. Will we?
  4. Christian replacementism. We developed a Christian version of everything the world offers: Christian bands, novels, schools, soccer leagues, t-shirts. We created the perfect Christian bubble.
  5. Cultural “relevance” over transformation.We imitated our culture’s most successful gathering places in an effort to be “relevant.” Reflect on the Sunday “experience” at most Big-box churches:
    1. Concert hall (worship)
    2. Comedy club (sermon)
    3. Coffee house (foyer)

And what about Transformation? Is that not missing from these models? Where is a sense of the holy?

6. Professionalization. If we do know an unbeliever, we don’t need to share Christ with them, we have pastors to do that. We invite them to something… to an “inviter” event… we invite them to our “Christian” subculture.

7. “McDonald’s-ization” vs. Contextualization:  It is no longer our own vision and passion. We purchase it as a package from today’s biggest going mega-church. It is almost like a “franchise fee” from Saddleback or The Resurgence.

8. Attractional over missional. When our greatest value is butts in pews we embrace attractional models. Rather than embrace Paul’s Ephesians 4 model in which ministry gifts are given by God to “equip the saints” we have developed a top-down hierarchy aimed at filling buildings. This leaves us with Sunday “church” an experience for the unchurched, with God-centered worship of the Almighty relegated to the periphery and leading of the body of Christ to greater spiritual power and sanctification to untrained small group leaders.

Does not all of this work together as a package to leave us with churches full of empty people?

Here is an example: Your church. Does it look like this?

If you look closely, you will see the photo on the right is of a nightclub, rather than a church. Can you see what I mean about “relevance” and the clean Christian version of what the world offers? Your youth room is a pretty good indicator of what your church will look like 15 years from now. Because of the principle “What you win them with, you win them to,” your students today will expect their adult church to look like your youth room.

In summary, “Market Driven” youth ministry gave students a youth group that looks like them, does activities they prefer, sings songs they like, and preaches on subjects they are interested in. It is a ministry of preference. And, with their feet, young adults are saying…




What might we do instead? The opposite of giving people what they want is to give them what they need. The beauty is that Christianity already knows how to do this.

Once upon a time our faith thrived in a non-Christian empire. It took less than 300 years for 11 scared dudes to take over the most powerful empire the world had ever seen. How did they do it? Where we have opted for a relevant, homogenously grouped, segregated, attractional professionalized model; the early church did it with a  multi-ethnic, multi-social class, seeker INsensitive church. Worship was filled with sacrament and symbol. It engaged the believing community in the Christian narrative. This worship was so God-directed and insider-shaping that in the early church non-Christians were asked to leave the building before communion! With what effect? From that fellowship of the transformed, the church went out to the highways and byways loving and serving the least, last and lost. In that body of Christ, Christians shared their faith with Romans 1:16 boldness, served the poor with abandon, fed widows and took orphans into their homes. The world noticed. We went to them in love rather than invited them to our event.

The beauty of where we are at today is that, unlike the girl in the hospital bed, our fatal pill could still be rejected. It is not too late. We can leave the culture-centered models we have been following for more Christ-centered ones. More ancient ones. More rooted ones. And the most beautiful thing is that students actually enjoy them.

Via: http://thegospelside.com/2012/09/23/whats-so-uncool-about-cool-churches/

Enriching the depth and meaning of our prayers.

be Plain:

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 (ESV)

I’m sure in public prayer you have either heard someone use a common phrase or two, or perhaps struggle to form what to them should be a near Shakespearean piece of prose. I want to suggest that keeping our language clear and direct will not only allow us to generate greater focus, it will in all respects allow us to zero in on what really in on and within our hearts.

be Specific

We should be aware that God really does know our hearts, and there is no reason not to apply that truth in both public and private matters. When our heart is begging that someone be healed, tell him who it is. Let those you lead in prayer know it too. Don’t hold back, don’t hem and hah. Just let it be.

be Open

It may be one of the most challenging points for today, but we vitally need to open up when we commune with our maker. I know it can be hard to let out your weaknesses, to cry aloud not only for the sins of the nation, but your own. But we need to, desperately. If we believe that prayer works, then be open about what you need.

be Mindful

It should go without saying that the old adage “be careful what you wish for… you just might get it” needs to have a place in your conversations with God. Further we need to make the full effort to match how we pray, with how we live.

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses” Mark 11:25-26 (ESV)


Draw Near to God, by Ken Weliever

 “Lord be with us…” is an expression we often hear in public prayers.  Sometimes it’s prayed as it relates to our family.  Or in a closing prayer as we leave the assembly.  Or in our daily Christian walk.  I’ve also heard it applied to our services.  “Lord be with as we worship today.”

I understand and appreciate the sentiment of that request.  Nor am I critical of the expression per sae.  However, maybe we ought to pray, “Lord, may we be with you.”  James 4:8 admonishes, “Draw near to God and be will draw near to you.”

Drawing near suggests that God welcomes us to seek Him. To come to Him.  To commune with Him. To communicate with Him. To enjoy fellowship with Him.  In fact, Paul pictures God as calling us to leave behind the darkness of sin, and the fellowship of the world, and to come to Him.  He declares that He will be our Father.  And that we can be his children–His sons and daughter (2 Cor. 6:17-18).  He desires that we be with Him.

Yet, the Bible teaches that the Lord is not “with us” when we engage in vain worship, defile the sanctity of the home, or fail to follow His Word in our daily lives. It is possible to draw near to God with hollow words.  Jesus’ warning is real in this regard.  “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”(Matt 15:8-9).

If our worship is not in “spirit and in truth,” the Lord is not with us.  If we fail to honor Him in our families, He is not with us.  If we lack love for our “neighbor”, God is not with us.  If we are dishonest in our business dealings, God is not with us.  If we neglect our daily walk with Him, the Lord is not with us.

Part of the challenge may be our desire and effort to grow our relationship with God.  In his book, One Holy Hunger, Mike Cope writes, “When our vision of God diminishes or fails to grow, Christianity becomes a tame, drab, lukewarm, safe religion that fits comfortably into our malnourished world view.”  Could it be that we want to live as we please, asking for Divine favor, and  neglect to “draw near to God?”

Our attitude needs to be like Asaph, the Psalmist, who penned, “But it is good for me to draw near to God;I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works” (PS 73:28).

As we assemble on the Lord’s day to sing, pray, listen to the Word, and enjoy fellowship. Let us draw closer to God, and pray that we be with Him.  And as we leave to walk out into the world in which we live, work, and play, may we seek to walk in His way. Instead of trying to squeeze God into what we already feel, believe or practice, we need to draw near to God.  Come to know His heart. His Word. His Plan for our lives.  When we do that our Christian experience is enlarged and enlivened.

 —Ken Weliever, The Preacherman



Getting-Along2One of the most shameful realities amongst those who claim to follow the Christ is obvious existence of needlessly scattered souls who ought to be assembling together but for any number of named of un-named reasons fail to work at being united.

In the article below, Mike Willis closes with:

How often our announcement of “new congregation established” is another way of saying, “A faction that could not get along with their brethren decided to start meeting too.

… If your heart does not feel the deep sting of that statement sit down and ask yourself why…


The Danger of Factionalism (1)

By Mike Willis

Recently I sat in a meeting with several gospel preachers, represent- ing rather conservatively 300-400 years of experience. As we discussed divisions that occur over liberal/conservative splits, the observation was made that the liberals attract those who are moving away from the doctrine of Christ, leading to further digression and apostasy, looser teaching, a more “grace oriented” approach, less distinctive preaching that distinguishes the Lord’s church from the denominations of men, sermons that are filled with anecdotes and few Scriptures, etc. On the other hand, those who preach a conservative message tend to attract those who are overly negative people (they are against whatever anyone else proposes), a legalistic mindset (salvation through perfect knowledge and obedience), divisive over every disagreement in understanding about a Bible verse or doctrine, and extremists. Because our message is more conservative, there is a tendency to attract such people and perhaps we have not written enough to address the problem of factionalism among us as a people.

In 1983, the Guardian of Truth Foundation published a book which I edited entitled Factionalism: A Threat to the Church which was designed to address this issue. Almost everything that I will write in this discussion of factionalism has already been published in that book. I say that lest someone think, “Mike Willis is going liberal.” This material has been available for public consumption for sixteen years without anyone challenging it. I believe today what I believed in 1983 about the loose views about marriage, divorce and remarriage, the grace/unity (unity-in- diversity) approach to unity (whether with reference to the divorce and remarriage issue or institutionalism, the sponsoring church, instrumental music, etc.), the sponsoring church, the church building and maintaining fellowship halls, institutionalism, instrumental music in worship, and church support of missionary societies. Having stated that, I also emphasize that I believe the same thing today about factionalism as I believed in 1983 and believe that we have a significant problem among us with churches being ripped apart by factional brethren. Likewise, the early church was racked by both liberal and factional movements, and God’s word addresses both dangers.

What Is Factionalism?

The English word group from which “factionalism” is derived is the derivative of “faction.” A “faction” is “1. a number of persons in an organization, having a common end in view; especially, a party within a party, seeking to further its own ends, usually in opposition to the ends and aims of the main body or leadership of the party; a clique. . .  2. partisan conflict within an organization or a country; discord; dissension” (Webster).  The word “factious” means “1. producing or tending to produce faction; causing dissension. 2. produced or characterized by faction.” “Factionalism” is “factional quarreling; a spirit of faction.” The Bible addresses these attitudes and actions of men in no uncertain terms and labels them as sinful. Let us consider some of the Scriptures where such sinful conduct is addressed.

1. 1 Corinthians 1-4. The church at Corinth was torn apart by factionalism. The division had not progressed to the point that brethren were meeting in different locations, but there were certain identifiable factions within the local church, identified as “I am of Apollos,” “I am of Cephas,” “I am of Paul,” and “I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:12). Paul condemned the factionalism or division in the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:10-17).  He called the divisions schismata, from schisma which means “a. prop. a rent:. . . b. metaph. a division, dissension” (Thayer 610). George Campbell wrote, “whatever alienates the affections of Christians for one another, is manifestly subversive of both, and may consequently, with the greatest truth and energy, be denominated schism” (The Four Gospels I:321). Paul charged that the existence of these factions within the church was proof of carnality (1 Cor. 3:1, 3), envy, strife and division (1 Cor. 3:3). Let’s look at these words from 1 Corinthians 3:3.

“Carnal” is translated from sarkinos, a derivative of the word sarx (“flesh”), which means “wholly given up to the flesh, rooted in the flesh as it were” (Thayer 569). In 1 Corinthians 3:3, the word sarkikos which is twice translated “carnal” is defined as “having the nature of flesh, i.e. under the control of the animal appetites. . . governed by mere human nature. . . not by the Spirit of God” (Thayer 569). Evidence that the Corinthians were governed by their fleshly nature rather than by the Holy Spirit was shown by the existence of “envy, strife, and division.”

The word “envy” is from zelos, a word that can describe a very positive zeal that sees the good in others and tries to make that a part of his own life, but is used in this context with an obviously negative connotation to describe “an envious and contentious rivalry” (Thayer 271). In conflicts that happen in local churches, disagreements occur that may have originated innocently. However, a person begins to view the conflict as a struggle in which his “side” must predominate. With all of the zeal of two athletes in compete tion with each other, the parties to the rivalry begin to see which side can gather the most adherents to its position. The same kind of “win at all costs” disposition that has had such a deleterious impact on sports at every age level can become the attitude of brethren who disagree. When this happens, the Bible’s teaching becomes subordinated to this spirit of rivalry that has one group against another group. “I am of Paul!” “I am of Cephas!”

The word “strife” is translated from eris. It is defined as “contention, strife, wrangling” (Thayer 249). The word describes that condition that develops in a church when various parties turn against each other and vie for control of the congregation. The word “division” is from dichostasia which is defined as “dissension, division.” This is the product that such dissension creates.

The tragedy of the divisions that occur among so many congregations among us is that they occur with virtually no doctrinal disagreement among the brethren. Just because one person cannot conscientiously say something the way that another believes it should be said, division (which everyone admits is sinful) is justified under the pretense that one is “standing for the truth.” Standing for the truth never justifies slandering a brother by misrepresenting what he believes to make one’s own cause look more righteous, working to create support for one’s party by political campaigning and maneuvering (every past disagreement that one had with someone on the other side is a legitimate tool to use to persuade another to join as a political ally against the other side), overthrowing elderships, driving away conscientious brethren because they happen to disagree, refusing to speak to one another, and a host of such like offences. What I have just described has been repeated in too many congregations for us to ignore the fact that such conduct is a problem among us at times.

The Lord condemned such division in no uncertain terms. Writing in the context of 1 Corinthians 1-4, the context of the divisions created by the various parties at Corinth, Paul said, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor. 3:16-17). This passage is not to be confused with 1 Corinthians 6:19 where the “temple” figure is used to describe the physical body; this passage is using the word “temple” to describe the local church. The “defiling” of the temple is that which occurs by sinful division. God’s judgment against those who destroy God’s temple by sinful division is clear: “him shall God destroy” (1 Cor. 3:17).

2. 2 Corinthians 12:20. In Paul’s exhortation to the church to turn away from ungodliness, he said, “For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed” (2 Cor. 12:20-21). I think one can see from the superficial reading of this text that Paul is still concerned about the factionalism in the church at Corinth. Let’s look more specifically at some of the evidences of this factionalism that he mentioned:

“Debates” is translated from eris, the same word as appeared in 1 Corinthians 3:3 which was there translated “strife.” The word does not describe that orderly polemical discussion of different points of view. The English word “quarreling” (NIV, NRSV) better captures the meaning of eris. The word “envying,” from zelos, also appeared in 1 Corinthians 3:3 and has previously been discussed. “Wraths” is from thumos, which describes “passion, angry heat. . . anger forthwith boiling up and soon subsiding again” (Thayer 292). There is another kind of sinful anger translated from the word orge that describes a settled anger that shows itself in revenge, bitterness, malice, and hatefulness. But this word emphasizes what so frequently happens when brethren become embroiled in controversy and one loses his temper. Sometimes business meetings are disrupted by this kind of behavior, and conversations on the parking lot or in the vestibule become so heated that someone is guilty of this kind of sinful wrath.

Paul adds that “strifes” also come from sinful factionalism. The word is translated from eritheia which has an interesting history. It was “used of those who electioneer for office, courting popular applause by trickery and low arts.” (Have you noticed any such political campaigning to solicit adherents to one’s party in church divisions? The spirit of Absalom did not die when he died. He campaigned to create dissatisfaction with the administration, feigning sympathy for the cause of every man dissatisfied with anything happening in the kingdom [2 Sam. 15:1-5].) Thayer continues to explain that the verb form of the word was derived from erithos which means “working for hire, a hireling” and then adds, “in the N.T. a courting distinction, a desire to put one’s self forward, a partisan and factious spirit which does not disdain low arts; partisanship, factiousness” (Thayer 249). If you think that brethren will not stoop to what Thayer describes as “low arts” to create their own following, you are naive.

Another expression of sinful conduct in the midst of factionalism is “backbiting.” The word is translated from katalalia,which Thayer defines as “to speak against one, to criminate, traduce” (Thayer 332). The English word “traduce” in case you are not familiar with it, means “to defame; to slander; to malign; to caluminate; to vilify” (Webster). Brethren who disagree sometimes latch on to the slenderest thread of “evidence” in order to make un- believable charges against men whose moral character is above reproach, simply because they thought they could win people to their side by painting those on the other side as ungodly. This is factionalism in full bloom.

Another expression of sinful conduct by factional people is “whisperings.” The word is translated from psithurismos, an onomatopoeic word, which means “a whispering, i.e. secret slander” (Thayer 676). The difference betweenkatalalia and psithurismos is that one works out in the open and the other works behind the back and under cover, but both accomplish the same thing. Men who would not come to talk to a brother about their differences will work like a bunch of maggots behind his back to destroy his influence and alienate him from those who love him.

Another expression of sinful conduct by factional people is described as “swellings.” The word is translated fromphusiosis, “a puffing up of soul, loftiness, pride.” Arrogance is typical of factional brethren who think that their own judgment is superior to that of all others and are willing to divide churches to press their opinion on others (it is so much superior to any other person’s opinion). In circumstances in which men disagree over some matter, wisdom dictates that one should seek  a multitude of counselors, in obedience to the divine counsel (Prov. 11:14; 15:22). However, when the advice that is given is not what one wants to hear, factional men tend to have such an arrogant disposition about their own opinions that they evaluate their own judgment as superior to that of older, wiser, and more experienced brethren. Of course, anyone who agrees with him after having only heard his one-sided presentation, which usually gives a very slanted assessment of those who disagree with him, is judged to be a very wise man.

Another expression of sinful conduct by factional people is “tumults.” The word is translated from akatastasia which means “instability, a state of disorder, disturbance, confusion: 1 Cor. xiv.33; Jas. iii.16; . . . plur. disturbances, disorders: of dissensions, 2 Cor. xii.20” (Thayer 21). Factional brethren create chaos in churches. The disorder and confusion that come is the natural result of their mindset.

3. Galatians 5:19-21. There are three words in Paul’s list of the works of the flesh that pertain to factionalism. They are “strife, sedition, heresies.” The words describe a progressive breakdown of the unity that should exist in the local church. Consider the definitions of these words:

“Strife” is from eritheia, which we previously considered on 2 Corinthians 12:20. It was used historically to refer to the politician and then to the hireling disposition that works for what one gets out of working for himself (without regard to service to others). Then the word is used to refer to “a courting distinction, a desire to put one’s self forward, a partisan and factious spirit which does not disdain low arts; partisanship, factiousness” (Thayer 249). The first steps of factionalism are taken by a person with this kind of partisan and factious spirit who is working in the congregation.

The word “sedition” is from dichostasia, which means “dissension, division” (Thayer 153). This describes the condition of a church when there are identifiable parties meeting together (“I am of Paul,” “I am of Cephas,” “I am of Apollos”). The progression of the division has increased to the point that the partisan and factious person has been able to gather a nucleus of men in support of his position. He presses others to accept his position to such a degree that he creates a reaction in opposition to himself. Now there is party “A” and party “Not-A.” When a church reaches this condition, dissension and division have occurred. All of the congregation is still under the same roof, but the presence of distinctive parties is evident.

The third word is “heresies.” The word hairesis is used in this context without reference to the doctrinal correctness of the opinion that is held. Though error certainly may be involved, the emphasis here is on the divisive spirit rather than the content of the teaching. The heresy is heresy not because what is consolidating the party is unorthodox, but because of the party spirit that loves its doctrinal position more than it loves its brethren. They would rather cling to their position, even if that means that they must drive away from themselves everyone who disagrees with them. Thayer defines the word hairesis as a derivative of haireomai, “choosing, choice. . . 3. that which is chosen, a chosen course of thought and action; hence one’s chosen opinion, tenet; acc. to the context, an opinion varying from the true exposition of the Christian faith (heresy): 2 Pet. ii.1. . . .4. a body of men separating themselves from others and following their own tenets [a sect or party]: as the Sadducees, Acts v. 17; the Pharisees, Acts xv.5. . . . 5. dissensionsarising from diversity of opinions and aims: Gal. v.20; 1 Cor. xi.19” (Thayer 16). Notice that the “heresies” of Galatians 5:20 have nothing to do with unorthodox belief. Rather, it has to do with that holding of an opinion to the point of separating oneself from his brethren. At this point, brethren cannot meet together under the same roof.

Until brethren come to grips with Paul’s statement that “strife, seditions, heresies” are works of the flesh that cause one to lose his soul, we will continue to have churches torn asunder by factional conduct of brethren. The weak defense, “We had to divide to maintain the doctrinal purity of the church,” is betrayed by the fact that the two groups created by the factional conduct continue to invite men standing for the same doctrine to hold their meetings and continue to believe, teach and practice the same things. Brethren this scenario has repeated itself in congregations all across America from time to time. Our factionalism is shameful. How often our announcement of “new congregation established” is another way of saying, “A faction that could not get along with their brethren decided to start meeting too.

via: http://www.truthmagazine.com/the-danger-of-factionalism-1

Thoughts on walking away from God, by Doy Moyer

walk away-764751We sometimes hear about “de-conversion” stories where someone who grew up being taught about Christ, or who had become a Christian, rejects God to become an atheist. There are a number of reasons this may happen. They all have a story. Some argue that they have now seen the light of science and are no longer going to allow themselves to brainwashed. Typically, all they have done is traded authorities. How many have actually seen firsthand all the evidence that they have been told about or read in some textbook? While they rail against what they’ve been “told” while growing up, they now accept, almost blindly, what someone else tells them. And they fail to see the irony of it all. They haven’t changed how they receive what they are taught (read it, hear it), but they have changed what sources they think are important.

Why do they de-convert? Some cite their inability to have an answer for something specific they have been asked. Unable to answer, and thinking there is no answer, they give up. Sadly, giving up in apologetics shows a shallowness that is not very flattering to those who think of themselves as intellectuals. Apologetics has both a breadth and depth that goes well beyond any cursory attempts to provide one-liner type answers. Hard work is necessary, and every ounce of work is worthwhile.

“Easy for you to say.” Not at all. I could, if I wanted, recount the troubles of my youth. I could tell you of my own faith that wavered and teetered in ways I am not proud of — my “faith” that failed so early on. I could tell the heartbreaking story of my brother who tossed his faith aside for many years, and the terribly difficult questions broached during those years. This drove me into apologetics. I could tell stories of my anger at God. I’ve had reasons to give up. I’ve had reasons to disbelieve. But at the end of the day, though my faith was not easy, none of those reasons were valid.

If you have doubts, I plead with you not to use them to turn from God. Do not use them to justify wrong-doing. Use them to seek, search, knock, and ask. Use them to make your faith your own.

rekindling the fire to Proclaim the Good news

Match-on-fire1James Nored wrote the following series a while back in which he raises some salient questions and provides his answers to them. In my opinion he does not provide answers to his questions that match the simplicity of the Bible.

“I recently toured a church in our fellowship that just redid their auditorium. They had an incredible set up. Three huge screens, incredible lighting, stadium seating. I immediately thought two things: 1) this must have cost a lot of money–we could never afford this; and 2) I would love to preach in this atmosphere, because it would be incredible. It would be experiential” James Nored

Wes McAdams does a fine job responding to the core of what was missing in his article Experience Driven Church.

  1. Why are Churches of Christ Shrinking? – Part 1: A Left-Brained Fellowship in a Right-Brained World
  2. Why are Churches of Christ Shrinking? – Part 2: Failure to Understand that it is an Increasingly Unchurched, Post-Christian World
  3. Why Churches of Christ Are Shrinking – Part 3: A Misplaced Identity and a Failure to Truly Believe in Grace
  4. Why Do Churches of Christ Have Hope and a Future? – Part 1: A Reawakening to Ancient Faith & Practices Such as Baptism & the Lord’s Supper

If I were to suggest some solutions to the growing challenge of reaching the lost in our present culture, it would include:

  • When asked about the Christ, discuss “righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come”.
  • In the manner of your life, let people see that you love your brethren.
  • Do not be ashamed of your King.
  • Be empowered by holy living.
  • Get the seed out of the bag and start sowing!
%d bloggers like this: