Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

84. DOES YOUR CHURCH HAVE A VISION?

Vision includes both objectives and processes for meeting those objectives.  What is the vision embraced by your church; what are the objectives and what processes are being utilized?

Some Christian leaders suggest that traditional objectives are no longer appropriate:

 

  • God doesn’t need us to do anything. The battle between good and evil, if it ever existed, surely has been resolved.  Satan may have been nothing more than a figment of our imagination.  In any case, no such being presently holds sway on this earth.

 

  • God will ultimately make sure everyone goes to Heaven and He doesn’t need any help from us. We should turn our attention elsewhere and concentrate on more important issues such as the destruction of racism, patriarchy and heteronormativity using critical race theory, intersectionality and other tools of social justice.

 

  • The objectives defined by the Great Commandment (Mat 22:36-40), Great Commission (Mat 28:18-20) and Healing (Luke 9:2, 10:9) are anachronisms and should be relegated to the dust bin.

 

Other Christian leaders accept the Great Commandment and Great Commission as legitimate objectives but insist that the processes for meeting these objectives have already been defined by past generations:

 

  • For worship, congregations passively listen to clever messages mixed in with musical entertainment, announcements and ritual prayer.  The messages are carefully contrived to avoid causing anyone to think excessively or become uneasy; scary words like “SATAN” and “HELL” are generally avoided. 

 

  • We minister to our neighbors by paying them short visits during which we guard against too much involvement; this assuages our conscience while avoiding unpleasant entanglements in core problems. 

 

  • We sometimes evangelize by preaching and quoting Scripture to people we barely know.  We become self-appointed martyrs if our efforts are rebuffed; we tell God we were faithful even if we weren’t fruitful. 

 

  • We enlarge the fellowship by every sort of “Madison Avenue” huckstering within the limits of our imagination, of course telling God that whatever we do is for the “greater good.”

 

  • Discipleship is accomplished in Sunday School by re-reading the same baby-food lessons for decade after decade but never teaching exactly what Christians believe and why. 

 

The consequence of our man made processes for meeting objectives is the American church in death spiral.

 

Here is a novel idea.  Christian objectives were defined by Scripture 2000 years ago [Great Commandment (Mat 22:36-40); Great Commission (Mat 28:18-20); Healing (Luke 9:2, 10:9)].  Perhaps appropriate processes were also defined by Scripture.

 

Here are some possibilities.

 

UNITED CORPORATE PRAYER

A. Torrey summarizes the place of prayer as a Biblical process: “Prayer is God’s appointed way for obtaining things and the great secret of all lack in our experience, in our life and in our work is neglect of prayer…Those men whom God set forth as a pattern of what He expected Christians to be – the apostles – regarded prayer as the most important business of their lives…The words pray and prayer are used at least 25 times in connection with Jesus in the brief record of his life set forth in the four Gospels and His praying is also mentioned in places where the words are not used.”

Church prayer has become a tired ritual which is performed with no real expectation even though Scripture teaches the unlimited power of united corporate prayer.  Where there is real agreement, where the Holy Spirit brings believers into perfect harmony concerning that which they ask of God, where the Holy Spirit lays the same burden on all hearts, in such prayer there is great power.  What if all the church ritual prayer, musical entertainment and baby food lessons were replaced by congregational united corporate prayer from men and women yearning to be led by the Holy Spirit down a path of confession, remorse, repentance, faith, obedience, humility, forgiveness, sincerity, purity, persistence, restoration, truth and worship?  Could such prayer have an impact on Kingdom work?

 

RESTORATION

A. Boyd masterfully portrays the great war of the forces of God against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness: “Jesus’ entire ministry, as we have seen, reflects the belief that the world had been seized by a hostile, sinister lord. Jesus had come to take it back. Contrary to any view suggesting that everything has a divine purpose behind it, Jesus’ ministry indicated that God’s purposes for the world had to be fought for and won.  Jesus taught his disciples to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.  This presupposes that, to a significant extent at least, God’s will is not now being done on earth.”

The world, at every level, is at war.  We are on the front lines of this Great War whether we like it or not.  The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ began a new phase of warfare.  God the Son began the process of taking back his creation.  The outcome of the war was decided completely by the substitutionary atonement but the process of repair, reconstruction, restoration and repossession of creation only began.  Jesus expects his people to engage the enemy and be soldiers in His army.

We are commanded in Chapters 9 and 10 of Luke to not only preach the kingdom of God but also to heal the sick.  This limited and localized form of restoration serves as a process to thwart the prince of darkness and the forces of evil.  Mainline Christian churches have all but abandoned the healing ministry.

 

TRUTH

Classical logic deals with propositions that are either true or false.  Historic Christianity stands on the beliefs that classical logic represents the truth of God and sound reason is the foundation of the Christian faith.  The Christian God is a God of absolutes and one of His attributes is truth.  God cannot lie (Heb 6:18; Titus 1:2; II Tim 2:13).  God’s truth is never personal, situational, relative or unknowable; it is absolute.

On contentious issues (e.g. Calvinism vs. Arminianism, abortion for convenience, homosexuality, etc.), some churches invoke the concept of Positive Tolerance.  This means that Christians not only have the right to disagree with one another, but all the various views must be regarded as equally valid by the yardstick of God’s truth.  Other churches simply ban the study and discussion of contentious issues.  Excessive knowledge invites division; an ignorant congregation is a manageable congregation.

But Jesus said:

 

  • “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

 

  • “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

 

  • “You are right in saying I am a king.  In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)

 

Furthermore …the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).  If the church would go about the process of separating truth from lie, would that not honor God?

 

MAGNIFICATION

God does not need us to worship Him.  He is secure in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth without ego reinforcement from created beings.  But He knows we need to worship Him for our own good!  He knows we are born with a sin nature and embrace sinful behavior as soon as we are able.  He knows sin is like the great black hole at the center of our galaxy, ever drawing its neighbors closer to oblivion.  If I neglect asking the Holy Spirit to: (1) occupy and purify my heart, (2) help my will become aligned with the will of God, (3) help me discern the truth and (4) be Lord of my life, then I will gradually begin to spiral toward the black hole of evil.  I will be weighed down by my own 

 

  • Concupiscence
  • Bad judgment
  • Inconsistent will
  • Weariness caused by the constant struggle against temptation   

 

and, at the very least, become a soldier overwhelmed by the battle.  God initiates, advances and perfects everything that can be called good in man.  He leads the sinner from one step to another in proportion as He finds response in the heart and disposition to obedience.  We must constantly enlarge the influence of God in our lives and in our Church.  We must constantly engage in the process of magnifying the influence of God.

These four processes can be remembered by means of the recurrence mnemonic PRTM from the Hebrew “Mem Tav Reysh Pe” (Strong Number 6579) meaning most noble prince.  PRTM represents a mnemonic for:

 

  Prayer Restoration Truth Magnification
Prayer Praise Repentance Thanksgiving Mercy
Restoration Purification Regeneration Transformation Maintenance
Truth Precedent Reason Testament Manifold
Magnification Promise Revelation Trust Manifestation

 

The corresponding numerals are

 

P          80

R         200

T          400

M         40

 

which can be combined as

(PR)/(TM)  =  1

to serve as a reminder that the two concepts, “Prayer Supporting Restoration” and “Truth Supporting Magnification” are equally important and neither should be neglected.  If the weapon of prayer does not contribute to the restoration of God’s creation from the bondage of evil then it is like using a sword to admire your own reflection rather than to vanquish the enemy.  Similarly, if the declaration of truth does not contribute to the magnification of God, then it merely supports the worship of God’s creation rather than the creator.