My favorite people are those who really want to know all there is to know about God and His Word. They aren’t trying to better than anyone else. It isn’t a Bible Quiz competition or a “good Pharisee tactic.” Their heart just wants to get closer to God and serve Him the best they can.
One of my best friends is like that. He’s so hungry for more of God. He posts his daily reading completions on Facebook, more to keep on eye on himself than to impress anyone. Because he continues to learn and wants to understand better, we have some really interesting discussions.
Recently we sat together and he brought up one of my sermons he was listening to online. Since it was one of those rare occasions where we get our families together for a couple of days, we had one of those long talks. These are my favorite opportunities to find out if people really know what kind of baggage they are burdening people with.
Churches and Christians often get hung up on the wrong things. We debate and argue over Scripture and miss the point. Like the “lawyers” of Jesus’ time, we have to be careful we don’t learn so much that we don’t know anything.
Somehow we have trained ourselves to force verses on others while ignoring others for ourselves. This goes beyond the speck in your friend’s eye while you have a plank in your own. It’s just plain selective listening to the obvious Word of God.
Mishandling the Baggage
You may have heard the statement that the best way to reach unsaved people is to plant churches. While it makes sense that a new church should reach people where no church existed before, this statement also applies to communities already having a church presence.
You know what those communities look like. They have a “Church Street”, either in name or just in appearance. Six churches line the same pavement within a three block area. Yet each of those churches struggles to bring people through the doors week after week. But just try starting a theater church in that city, or a new meeting in a school cafeteria, and people start responding to the work of a new church.
It may not come as a shock to you, but established churches have a lot of baggage. The longer the church’s history, or of its membership, the more baggage it carries along. The trouble with the baggage isn’t the years of carrying it, though. It is in dropping it on the shoulders of seekers and new attenders.
[tweetthis]Established churches have a lot of baggage they tend to drop on seekers & new attenders.[/tweetthis]
Unfortunately, such baggage has little to do with actually knowing God. It seeks to push people into a mold of acceptable behavior, though who established the rule or why it continues to be enforced is often unknown. When pressed for an explanation, a stray verse from the Scriptures is usually brought out as the ever-so-spiritual foundation for the baggage.
The problem with these Scriptural foundations is how poorly they are understood and applied. Though they may seem so obvious on the page, the real background might surprise us. They also have a way of leading the baggage handler into a place I can’t stand to see people in.
The worst baggage handlers approach the Scriptures with a pair of scissors. They aren’t cutting out miracles or hard to explain portions of the New Testament. Instead they are finding Scriptures they can push onto others while ignoring other verses they should be equally intent about enforcing if they are going to put so much stock in the first.
Some Jewish believers probably considered Paul a heretic on some counts, yet Paul was very passionate about silencing false teachers. Much of his writings were sent as corrective instruction, pulling believers from the clutches of these evil teachers.
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote how he sent Timothy to Ephesus to stop teachers of false doctrine.
Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. (1 Timothy 1:6–7, NIV)
Do you know anyone like that? Have you seen them at work in the church? They talk and talk, but don’t really understand what they are promoting. It could be a rule the church has had for years, or it could be the latest End Times teaching. Whatever the bandwagon, they’re recruiting, or drafting, anyone and everyone.
Sure, they think they are helping out the uneducated. Or maybe they believe they are just showing new people the right way. But they’re just tossing old baggage on new souls. They’re clueless heretics, preaching a gospel that isn’t The Gospel, and they don’t care who they hurt along the way.
[tweetthis]Beware of clueless heretics preaching what they don’t understand and isn’t The Gospel. #church[/tweetthis]
The True Gospel
How does this relate to the big discussion with my friend? We were talking about traditional rules we force on people. Though he had a Bible verse to support his rule, I wanted to remind him that the Church should be a place of welcoming seekers with grace instead of rules.
The Gospel is proclaimed to captives to set them free. I can’t imagine anyone would be willing to accept any gospel that demands the seeker put on handcuffs and lock themselves in a cage before hearing about what it means to be free.
We have to get back to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Everyone without Jesus is lost. But being found does not mean falling in step with a bunch of rules and carrying around spiritual baggage. It isn’t actually spiritual to do that. Baggage and rules are earthly.
Life formation, shaping into a mold, is not the job of the Church or Christians. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who believe and receive the power of God in their lives. Our job is to welcome and love. Point the seekers to Jesus. Offer them keys of freedom, not baggage.
[tweetthis]The #Church should point seekers to Jesus and offer them keys of freedom instead of baggage.[/tweetthis]