Church 2.0: Part 10.11: Congregational Autonomy, Part 5 (Next Steps)

Church2

So what are the next steps?

  1. Teach grace sufficient to allow us to treat other denominations of Christians as saved.
  2. Teach a faith certain enough that we don’t treat non-Christians as Christians. Jews and Muslims aren’t part of this. Faith in Jesus is required — without apology. We preach Jesus just the way Peter and Paul preached Jesus in Acts. Unity without Jesus is impossible and pointless. We’d may as well re-attempt atheism a la the French Revolution (which went very badly, by the way — as has every single society built on atheism).
  3. Insist that our preachers participate in any local association of Christian pastors and preachers — even to the point of providing their fair share of leadership.
  4. Encourage grassroots programs that are cross-denominational. In my hometown, we have a Good Samaritan Clinic run by the Baptists but participated in by Christians of all denominations, including many members of my own church. We also have a Soup Kitchen run by the downtown churches of various denominations. And there are other such efforts. But not nearly enough.
  5. Conduct joint services with other churches in town — even if it means getting letters from other Churches of Christ condemning us for so doing. Most of their own members would find the joint services encouraging (even if they’re too afraid of being cast out of the “synagogue” to speak up). Take communion together. Anything less make communion a parody of the real thing.
  6. When a church has a Franklin Graham campaign or the like in town, support it with volunteers and donations. When the churches in town have a joint service for the National Day of Prayer, participate.
  7. Put together a city-wide joint communion service in the local basketball coliseum or football stadium. It may take three or more years to pull it off, but try to make it into an annual event. (The first one will be the hardest by far.)
  8. Organize the joint pastor/preacher luncheon to become a missional alliance. Do serious planning among church leaders (not just pastors and preachers) to evangelize your city and meet its needs (Jer 29:4-9).
  9. Coordinate benevolence activities rather than competing. Do them in a way that gives people dignity and hope.
  10. Do everything in the name of Jesus. When some young M.Div. opines that all good work is Kingdom work, ask him for a good reason not to do our Kingdom work in the name of Jesus? Ask him whether he wishes to see people confess faith in Jesus? Don’t let muddy, lazy thinking turn the salvation of the world into nothing but painted houses.
  11. Organize cross-denominational environmental efforts in the name of Jesus. Find environmental causes that aren’t politically divisive. Rather than a rally for or against global warming, get dirty and clean the litter off the local bypass. Clean up a creek. Parents and teens together, from all sorts of churches, in the name of the Jesus.
  12. Merge churches at every opportunity. Celebrate mergers.
  13. Include notices of cross-denominational events in your bulletin and Sunday morning announcements. Make certain the church leaders unambiguously encourage such efforts. If you’re a leader, show up at many of these events. Don’t be half-hearted or look over your shoulder at critics. You’ll be criticized whichever direction you go, and so go God’s direction.
  14. Encourage multi-site churches to be multi-site within their original community only. Discourage the Wal-Mart model in which a multi-site church builds in several cities to pick off low-hanging fruit among the wealthy and upper middle class in several towns rather than focusing on the spiritual and physical needs of its own community (Jer 29:4-9). Take all the wealth that large multi-site churches can generate (a good thing) and build churches in parts of town where there is little wealth and the church is desperately needed. Or just give the money and volunteers to existing churches to help them serve their own communities. Think Jer 29, not American Capitalism.
  15. Let the Spirit blow wherever he wills. Take the time to just sit back to try to notice what God is doing in your city. Go where God already is working and follow his lead.
  16. Pray. A lot.
Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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25 Responses to Church 2.0: Part 10.11: Congregational Autonomy, Part 5 (Next Steps)

  1. Woodlands Jeff says:

    Yes!

  2. ddos says:

    Jay, you challenge me and make me very uncomfortable. (I think that is a good thing.)

  3. Dwight says:

    I would argue we need to teach unity in Christ and not unity in us or our denomination or our system of theology. But we also need to know where the differences are.
    Some other groups (like Mormons, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah’s Witness, etc.) deny many mainstay principles such as Jesus as the only begotten Son of God and add many laws on people to follow that aren’t of God, but are said to be of God. Or elevate some, like Mary or saints, to the position of Godhood worthy of praise. There are differences.

    Of course we do this ourselves as well in some things, so maybe we aren’t that far off from them. But the answer isn’t to be more like them and join with them in doing this, but to get away from subjecting ourselves to things that aren’t laws as laws.

    Our goal though should be to focus on the Kingdom and not on our church or their church.

  4. Royce Ogle says:

    Good stuff Jay. Very good.

  5. Ray Downen says:

    Do apostles urge fellowship with unbelievers? Surely ALL CHRISTIANS should work together to bring honor to Jesus. Does it honor Jesus for those who love and serve Him to work with unbelievers as if they were brothers in Christ? Those who sprinkle water on a person of any age as if they were baptizing should be taught of their error, not accepted as brothers “in Christ.” But neither do we do well to expect every brother in Christ to agree with our every opinion.

    The question is where to draw the line of fellowship IN CHRIST. And the answer surely should be that if another believer accepts apostolic authority and seeks to serve Jesus by obeying Him, then that person is our brother or sister IN CHRIST. But no one is in Christ until they have turned to Him as LORD and have been baptized as He commands for every new believer. Are we being asked to fellowship with non-believers? Or are we simply being reminded of our DUTY to love our brothers even if their opinions differ from ours?

    Do I hear Jay urging us to ignore the fact that Presbyterians and Methodists do not normally practice Christian baptism, and asking that we join in doing good works with everyone who claims to be a Christian? Everyone, like 7-th Day Adventists? Like Mormons? I’m not positive what I’m reading!

  6. Mikhail says:

    Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Reformed churches, and others all practice Christian baptism. I think Ray meant to say, “they don’t practice “Church of Christ baptism.” Or you don’t believe any of them to be Christians; they just think they are.

  7. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Ray,

    You consider someone who has been baptized incorrectly an “unbeliever”? An unbeliever in who or what? They believe in Jesus — even those Presbyterians and Methodists. So not believing in baptism as taught in the Churches of Christ makes them unbelievers? Sounds like we’re supposed to confess faith in baptism.

  8. Larry Cheek says:

    Mikhail,
    Did you read the post about the Catholics? If they don’t believe in Jesus can they be Christians?

  9. Mikhail says:

    Larry,
    I did not see that post. I don’t know if you’re merely stating what someone else posted or if you are stating that “[Catholics] don’t believe in Jesus; [how] can they be Christians?” Catholics most certainly believe in Jesus. Catholics reaffirm that belief every day they “go to church” when they recite the Nicene Creed. They also believe in baptism for the remission of sins, which is more than some Protestants can say. I doubt every Catholic is a Christian (a follower of Christ), but I doubt every Church of Christ attendee is a Christian either.

  10. Larry Cheek says:

    Mikhail,
    As I have been researching to increase my knowledge of the beliefs of the Catholic Church and reading several versions of the Nicene Creed, it does appear to me that many Catholics are believers in Christ who offer worship to Christ as not only God’s son but as worthy to be worshiped as God the Father. But, the organization (leadership) has in place, instructions about the Christian relationship with the Jews that are not following the New Testament communications concerning that relationship during the teachings of Christ and his Apostles. To explain in a little more detail, The Jews which did not accept Christ as their Messiah, were never considered faithful to God or Christ, by rejecting Christ they were actually rejecting the prophesy of the Messiah and New Covenant which God was presenting to them. There are some very stern comments directly from Christ concerning their relationship with him and God as they rejected his teachings. Christ has stated that no man can come to the Father God except through him. The Jews reject that and desire to keep their old relationship with God, Therefore, The Jews as a nation and their followers will always be outside the promises of The New Testament. Now as I read the documents of the Catholic Church it is very plain that they are teaching to allow The Jews to remain Jews and accept that they are in a parallel relationship along side Christianity sharing equally with access to God The Father. Even as they reject Christ. As a result Catholics are admonished to not evangelize any Jews into Christianity. They are treating The Jews as equals. Notice the documents. These can be Googled.

    Guidelines For Catholic-Jewish Relations

    Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations
    Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
    National Conference of Catholic Bishops
    1985 Revision

    You really should read the complete document to come to a complete understanding as to the directions for Catholic vs Jewish relationships. But, here is a few paragraphs.

    “Our common heritage impels us toward this, our common heritage of service to humanity and its immense spiritual and material needs. Through different but finally convergent ways we will be able to reach, with the help of the Lord who has never ceased loving his people (cf. Rom 11:l), this true brotherhood in reconciliation and respect, and to contribute to a full implementation of God’s plan in history (March 6, 1982)”.

    “The Roman Catholic Church in this country is provided with an historic opportunity to advance this cause–an opportunity to continue the leadership taken in that direction by our American bishops during the great debate on the declaration at the council. In the years since that time, much has been done in the United States to develop an atmosphere of mutual respect and spiritual kinship between Jews and Catholics.”

    Christ nor his Apostles considered The Jewish Nation as having a common heritage or a spiritual kinship in relationship as to serving God in The New Covenant.

  11. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Mikhail and Larry,

    To be fair, essentially all Catholics believe in Jesus. There is a committee within the Vatican who believe in Jesus but believe Jews may be saved without faith in Jesus – based on a very mistaken reading of Rom 11. But that hardly means that most Catholics even agree with that position, much less that they don’t believe in Jesus.

    There are many very prominent members of the Churches of Christ who deeply believe in Jesus but believe that those never taught about Jesus may be saved without faith in Jesus — under the “available light” theory — based on a reading of Rom 2 that I strongly disagree with. But I’m confident that they aren’t damned for their error. They’re wrong (in my opinion). But not going to hell because of it.

  12. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    The question then arises, when we understand that the organization with which we are associating is upholding teachings that we can prove are not supported by scripture, are we not also supporting the same if we support the organization? Can we be faithful to Christ and still support an organization which teaches what we see as a false doctrine? I understand if we are unaware of the teachings then we can support those whom are teaching what we could not endorse. But, after we learn of the teachings, would we not be sinning if we support what we don’t believe?
    So we attempt to evangelize and tell those we are trying to teach that we can be called (so and so) as a church but we cannot follow their directives in certain teachings?

    If that is so then Christians can continue to be associated with any organization claiming ties with Christianity, regardless of their stand on issues totally different than Christ’s teachings?

  13. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry asked,

    The question then arises, when we understand that the organization with which we are associating is upholding teachings that we can prove are not supported by scripture, are we not also supporting the same if we support the organization? Can we be faithful to Christ and still support an organization which teaches what we see as a false doctrine?

    Uh, no. Why would it? The CoC teaching that we somehow condone someone’s sin by worshiping with that person is made up out of nothing.

    Consider the following:

    1. The example of Jesus

    (Matt. 9:10-13 ESV) 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

    The Pharisees believed that they honored God by being separate from sinners. Jesus believed that he honored God by being among sinners because he saw his mission as being redemptive rather than about separation.

    2. Romans and Galatians

    Rom 14 teaches that we must not divide over “disputable matters.” Of course, both sides are convinced that they are right (Rom 14:5). “Disputable” doesn’t mean “we’re not sure.” It means it’s something over which we might dispute. If we’re disputing over it, it’s disputable — unless it’s faith in Jesus as Messiah (faith/faithfulness/trust), because we cannot disagree over that and remain saved.

    Hence, when we damn someone over holy days (pro or con), we become guilty of the Galatian heresy, teach another gospel, alienate ourselves from the Messiah, and fall away. But when we consider holy days a disputable matter and welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us (Rom 15:7), then–

    (Rom. 14:4-8 ESV) 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

    In contrast to —

    (Gal. 4:9-11 ESV) 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

    In Romans 14, honoring days is disputable. In Gal 4, honoring days risks damnation. Why the difference? Because in Galatians they made honoring (or not honoring) days a salvation issue. They treated faith/faithfulness/trust as insufficient to save unless certain works were added (either honoring or not honoring days). But in Romans, if the two sides treat each other as saved despite what the other side perceives as error, they are both saved.

    4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

    Now, the example of Jesus particularly appropriate because it’s about table fellowship, as is Rom 14 and likely Gal 4. (Peter was condemned for not eating with the Gentiles, you’ll recall.) The grammar of Rom 14 has been shown to be about household hospitality because the church ate meals together in homes. And my post deals with taking communion — a meal — with other denominations.

    3. The Churches of Christ

    In any town that has more than one Church of Christ (and few towns have just one), there are disagreements on doctrinal matters. In any town with just one Church of Christ, there are disagreements over doctrinal matters. But they’ve decided their disagreements are not “salvation issues.” But next week, someone may publish an article in the Spiritual Sword or the like declaring X or Y a salvation issue, and then suddenly it is.

    But the Churches of Christ have never articulated a coherent test for what is and isn’t a salvation issue. Rather, if it’s something we’ve split over, it’s a salvation issue. It depends on how strongly our editors and lectureship sponsors feel about it. But there is no test actually taken from scripture.

    Years ago, I corresponded with several editors of well-known CoC publications asking for the test, and received nothing but bluster and a refusal to explain their positions. I debated the question at http://www.graceconversation.com. The conservatives couldn’t even state a position. Todd Deaver published Facing Our Failure, demonstrating with meticulous research the utter intellectual bankruptcy of the conservative point of view.

    4. Congregational autonomy

    So, yes, I can break bread with a fellow believer who disagrees with me about all sorts of things. If he disagrees with me, then, of course, I think he’s teaching contrary to Christ’s teachings. On the other hand, as we’ve recently covered, there are situations where disfellowship is called for.

    But the last time I checked, we still believe in congregational autonomy, and that means I have no right to impose disfellowship on sheep of another shepherd. I can meet and talk with that person’s shepherds and urge them to adopt my position, but I cannot arrogate to myself oversight of someone else’s sheep. If I can’t get comfortable with not having my way at other congregations, I suppose I should join a denomination with regional bishops and then seek to become one.

    Thanks for the question. It’s raises an important topic. Either faith/faithfulness/trust in Jesus saves or it doesn’t. The rule can’t be that our errors (as believers) are forgiven by grace but your errors (as believers) are not. That would be beyond presumptuous.

  14. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    Your response is right on as to the my lack of interconnecting the exact situation that I was attempting to expose. Namely the support of the Catholic organization to teach that Judaism and Christianity are equals in this time frame in service to God and as was posted earlier that Catholics do not evangelize Jews..
    In the body of the post, point number 2 following you mentioned.
    “Teach a faith certain enough that we don’t treat non-Christians as Christians. Jews and Muslims aren’t part of this. Faith in Jesus is required — without apology.”
    While remembering the post regarding the Pope’s communication about not evangelizing The Jews, because God’s plan for them is still active. I had mentioned that Catholics may not be considered as Christians. Mikhail, was confirming that Catholics do accept Jesus.
    During my conversation with Mikhail above I had not realized that as Catholics recite The Nicene Creed they were professing a belief and dependence upon Jesus as their Savior. Therefore, I spent more time in research and found that The Catholic doctrine does support Jews as not being condemned, because they have not accepted Jesus. Read the other post for a complete communication. I did re copy the next two paragraphs for evidence of such.

    “Our common heritage impels us toward this, our common heritage of service to humanity and its immense spiritual and material needs. Through different but finally convergent ways we will be able to reach, with the help of the Lord who has never ceased loving his people (cf. Rom 11:l), this true brotherhood in reconciliation and respect, and to contribute to a full implementation of God’s plan in history (March 6, 1982)”.

    “The Roman Catholic Church in this country is provided with an historic opportunity to advance this cause–an opportunity to continue the leadership taken in that direction by our American bishops during the great debate on the declaration at the council. In the years since that time, much has been done in the United States to develop an atmosphere of mutual respect and spiritual kinship between Jews and Catholics.”

    Christ nor his Apostles considered The Jewish Nation as having a common heritage or a spiritual kinship in relationship as to serving God in The New Covenant.

    Now, if I was a Catholic and learned that the leadership of the church was teaching that Jews were not in need of a Savior named Jesus (as I understand the message within the documents I have read) would I not be furthering the message by continuing to support The Catholic Church?

    Let me put this another way, we know there are divisions in the Church and there should not be, and many of the divisions have been based upon just misinterpretations, which in reality are not damming. Therefore, the divisions is sin. But, notice that this organization is supporting an exact opposite of most all of Jesus’s teachings and much of the prophesy to The Jews concerning The Messiah (Jesus). These Jews will be lost (damned) unless they are taught about Jesus and become believers/followers.
    The concept that I had in mind while asking the question. If I was a Catholic and learned the organization I was supporting was teaching this error, (knowing that I would not have any influence to change this error) would I be sinning while supporting this work? How could I distance my self from being a accomplice to the actions of this teaching if I remained a supporter and advocate of the Catholic Church to non-believers. Could I be held accountable to the blood of lost Jews whom I had encouraged the withholding of the truth about Christ?

  15. Dwight says:

    One fact is that the Jews had leaders and the people followed the leaders in many matters, even in the washing of hands, but it was the leaders who were condemned and not the followers. The leaders knew better, but looked the other way, but the followers also looked the other ways from the leaders in many cases. This happens in the congregation I attend. The preacher preaches one thing, but the members, many of them don’t constrain themselves by the preaching, but what they know is real. IF our congregation had each member put in what they thought about IM many of them would disagree with the preacher and yet we still have unity in thought about Jesus.

  16. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    You raise an issue that many a Christian has to face. What if you find yourself out of step with the denominational leadership? I have Methodist and Episcopalian friends who are outraged by the decisions and doctrinal positions of their national offices or bishop, but who love their local congregations. Their local churches entirely disagree with the national office, but they faithfully send their dues into the national HQ. Of course, in many cases, the national HQ actually holds the deed to their church building and controls the pension of their pastor.

    We who worship with autonomous congregations don’t have quite the same problem, but there will be times when we find ourselves out of step with the congregational leadership. What if the preacher or elders take a position that you disagree with? Obviously, we never agree 100%. Then again, surely there comes a point when you should support another church’s efforts more in line with your own views.

    Personally, I object to the notion of any congregation giving financial control over their affairs to some state or national denominational HQ. It’s a serious mistake, and the problems are going to get worse. Many an Episcopal congregation has withdrawn from the local bishop over ordaining actively gay men as bishops, and some of the African bishops have offered to serve as bishops to these churches. But the local bishop then evicts the congregants from their building — because he holds the deed. This is an abuse of power, contrary to Christian principles, but it’s reality for many of my friends.

    So here’s my thinking — but I’m far from fully convinced. After all, these are issues the NT doesn’t really address.

    1. You don’t have to leave over a doctrinal disagreement with the congregational or denominational leadership so long as the disagreement is within Rom 14 and 1 Cor 8-10 and not Galatians and not rebellion. But when the leaders are not just mistaken but refusing to follow what they know the Bible teaches, it’s time to take a stand.

    (1 Jn. 4:4-6 ESV) 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

    The question is whether the leadership listens to the apostles. We might disagree as to the meaning of Rom 9 – 11, but if both sides are sincerely trying to obey God, tolerance is required. However, when the leaders rebelliously disregard the known teachings of the scriptures, then your leaders are no longer shepherds. They are wolves.

    They question then is whether to stay to try to change things or to leave to be more productive for the Kingdom elsewhere. It’s no easy answer, but I’d always be mindful of the impact of church controversies on my children. If they become too jaded or angry, they may leave Christianity altogether. I’d for sure leave before my kids are harmed. I’m not willing to trade my children’s salvation over my efforts to redeem my congregation or denomination.

    2. I really can’t see the point in sending money from a local church to support a national HQ that is so liberal that they ignore the scriptures. And I’d feel the same way about a national HQ that teaches legalism. In CoC terms, I wouldn’t want my church sending money to support missionaries who teach the legalism of the 1950s. Nor would I want my church to support a Christian college that teaches contrary to Rom 14. We cannot support teaching elsewhere that we’d not allow in our own congregation.

    3. If I were in a denomination that finds its national HQ in rebellion against God’s word, I’d seriously consider withholding my dues and even withdrawing from the denomination. The financial cost of so doing should be irrelevant. I just can’t imagine sending check after check as Jesus is being slandered and Christianity deconstructed. No building and no pension is worth such a high cost.

    4. I would resist the temptation to think like a consumer and shop for the best church experience. That is, having placed membership in a given church, my loyalty should be to that church for as long and late as possible rather than bailing at the first sign of trouble. I know of many churches that were revitalized only because a group of members decided to stay rather than leave. So I’d be biased toward staying. Anything else makes it virtually impossible for your elders to lead the church. I mean, if people bail over every dispute or disagreement, then the most easily offended members will always get their way and the leaders won’t be able to actually lead.

    5. One of the questions that should drive a congregational choice is whether being a part of X congregation will help me grow but also whether my being a part will allow me to be of real service. Sometimes the service we’re called to is to teach a truer understanding of the Bible and help fix what’s broken. But not everyone has the ability to help make that kind of change.

    6. The truth is that some congregations would do the Kingdom a service by dying. Their members could then move to better-led churches that make a real difference in the world. While it’s good and often necessary to stay to try to fix a broken church, sometimes it’s a waste of time and energy better invested elsewhere. And, in truth, only God knows how to draw that line.

    7. I’d pray. A lot.

    So this doesn’t add up to much of a decision-tree. That is, while I have some thoughts on the subject, I don’t see a clear path that anyone can use to make a decision. The NT assumes one congregation per city and holy leaders. And so how to deal with the division and mess we’ve made of things is largely unaddressed by the NT. I’m more than open to suggestions.

  17. Dwight says:

    Cities were where people were associated with or you were nomadic. I don’t think they were city elders, but rather elders who were within the area of a city or the people in the city. If they ordained elders within a city, then it is less than obvious that if you weren’t part of a city then you couldn’t be over people who were within your proximity. I would assume elders existed even when they were traveling in the wilderness towards a location.

  18. Mikhail says:

    Larry,

    I commend you for doing independent study to understand what others believe. I was taught little of Catholicism growing up other than they were “in error, much more error than everyone else.” Those teachings (that I now consider disingenuous) were reinforced at Lipscomb College in the early 80s. Had I been honestly taught what other denominations believe and why, I might not have had a crisis of faith later in life. I have studied more over the past decade than ever before in my life, read books not published in Nashville, and worked with many Catholic and Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ while living in Eastern Europe. They are not the caricatures described by many non-Catholics.

    When I read in the press that “Catholics are not to evangelize Jews,” I was certainly scratching my head. That didn’t sound very Catholic. I am skeptical of much of what I read in the mainstream media when it comes to Christianity and went to the National Catholic Register to get their take on it. A complete analysis by Jimmy Akin of the document is there. Firstly, Mr. Akin noted that, “the text is not a magisterial document or doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church, but is a reflection prepared by the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews on current theological questions that have developed since the Second Vatican Council.”

    The document discussed several particular points including supersessionism, the Old Covenant, salvation, and, evangelization. It also discussed a proposed view that there are two paths to salvation, one for Jews and one for Christians. This proposal says that we each have our respective covenant with God and there is no reason for Jews to become Christians or for Christians to evangelize Jews. This view, the author says, “is utterly inconsistent with the biblical data” and the church does not teach such a view. Jesus did not die only for Gentiles and his role as Savior of all, Jews included, is fundamental to the Christian faith.

    Regarding evangelization, the following is quoted verbatim from the article.

    [The document] acknowledges that Christians have a duty to evangelize and that this includes Jewish people. Many in the media and the blogosphere got this wrong (big surprise) and reported that the Holy See was saying that Christians should not evangelize Jews, but the document says otherwise. The document did say that evangelizing Jewish people is a sensitive matter for multiple reasons, including the fact that for many Jews it seems to call into question their continued existence as a people and the fact that the history of Christian persecution of Jews, including the 20th century German Holocaust, hangs over the discussion. It then draws a distinction between the Church supporting particular efforts directed to Jewish evangelization and the ordinary, organic efforts of individual Christians in sharing their faith with Jews.

    Regarding the former, the document says:
    In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews (GCGI 40).

    The key word here is “institutional.” It’s saying that the Church doesn’t have a Pontifical Commission for the Conversion of Jews and that it does not provide support for independent institutions devoted to Jewish mission work (e.g., Catholic equivalents of Jews for Jesus).

    I have read a couple of Jimmy Akins’ books, listen to him on the radio weekly, and find him to be an honest apologist. With over one billion Catholics, there is inevitably some controversial statement for the media to jump on. If Pope Francis (or another prominent cardinal or bishop I am familiar with) were to clarify that the document indeed discourages evangelization of Jews, I would be gravely concerned and if Pope Francis were to issue a statement ex cathedra that Jews should not receive the Gospel message and that the non-evangelization of Jews is church doctrine, I doubt I could be a Catholic.

  19. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    I understand the problems that you have described with organizations who call themselves, “ The Church”. I also have friends in similar vices. Each case that I am aware of is under the same type of control. An organization which has been organized by men which is designed in such a manner to either control the individuals who will submit to their beliefs or rituals or to act as if the those who attend there actually have become their property. These organizations then attempt to create an atmosphere that draws and captivates individuals dedicated to the exact position which you have described.
    “who love their local congregations.” Even though, “Their local churches entirely disagree with the national office, but they faithfully send their dues into the national HQ”.

    In order to explain what I see as totally out of the concepts that would have been seen by the first century Christians. I will have to make some statements that need confirmation about the early church environment.
    1. There were no organized bodies or assemblies which were identifying themselves as, “The Church”. All Christians were added to the church (church and kingdom are terms to include any and all of the disciples of Christ). No individual was ever mentioned in scripture to have joined, “The Church”. “Joining the Church”, “placing membership with a Church” or “the concept of being a member of the local congregation/Church” are not concepts ever expressed by any message in scripture.
    2. The term “member” was never used in NT scripture to identify an individual belonging to a specific assembly, or gathering of Christians. But, in our world the bodies of fellowship, the church as we use it today, the assemblies are demanding that an individual is either a member who has officially dedicated themselves to this particular local church, assembly, or organization or just a visitor. Of course, if that organization has ties to a body of directors that make up rules, regulations, set policy, and see the individuals who are called members as under their control or even that they are acting in the members behalf, it is an organization which has no identity in NT scripture. There is no indication that the assemblies in the first century dealt with those attending in those manners. Sometimes Elders fall into the same criteria. Elders are to first be co disciples then examples, leaders, shepherds who guide the flock within Christ’s rules and teaching, not their own. They are not allowed to create their own rules and regulations.

    Now let’s get back to the “who love their local congregations.” Where are we in scriptures supposed to love our brethren so greatly that we place them in competition with our Lords message? All pictures in scripture involving individuals choosing to follow Jesus, display them placing Jesus first in their lives above their relatives (sometimes even spouses), religion (Jews, Pagan, etc) nothing was allowed to interfere with their dedication to Christ. Government regulations were disobeyed when they stood between the disciple and Christ.
    With that in mind, let’s note a comparison. For an example, we have documented stories in scripture where Jewish individuals changed their complete curriculum of friends to dedicate their lives to Christ. Yet, they were never said to belong to a church. Today many churches want their followers to believe that the church has the power of salvation if you leave their assemblies or renounce them as your church association, the church or association wants you to believe you will be condemned.
    What would any Bible scholar have to comment about a situation like this, a Jew has learned about The Apostles teaching near the city, he goes and listens, believes the message and commits to the message, he has been added to the Church by God. Then he returns to the Synagogue where his family and beloved fellow Jews are meeting, he tells them the story (the Gospel Message) which he had just obeyed. They refuse the message but offer him condolence that he is still welcome to meet with them as long as he doesn’t mention this subject again. So now, he must make a decision, will he be restrained by his beloved association with friends and family or will he stand up for the new faith (Christ). What would the teachings of Christ demand?

    It is very easy for us to recognize that if someone belonged to a group of satanic worshipers, they could no longer continue that relationship after becoming a Christian. But, if they were associated with a Christian association (a church) which proclaims a relationship with Christ even (faith) but, is obviously teaching a message which is identified as an abomination by Christ and His Apostles and have implemented controlling their membership by controlling their material possessions, is that really Christ’s Body or has Satan stolen Christ’s followers without their knowledge?
    When their allegiance is pledged to this organization or to their friends, does Christ consider them as part of His Body, His Church, His Kingdom?
    Is it safe for anyone to knowingly support organizations or teachings that are contrary to Christ’s teachings?
    I see the OT and NT full of directives for God’s People to use in judging God’s Judgments in these situations.

    I see many are being able to implement Godly judgment about matters which are similar even within CoC. Christians who see the congregations which they attend teaching rules and regulations which are not found in scripture, after sometimes a confrontation, remove themselves from friends and even family to secure the evidence that they will not submit to un-Biblical directives. Many times they even learn that salvation is not dependent upon being identified as a member of any congregation. The Lord’s Body, The Church, The Kingdom to which we have been added is not an earthly entity.
    Jesus said.
    Joh 18:36 ESV Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

    To place too much dependence upon being within (belonging to a system of this world) may remove you from your place in the Kingdom not of this world, as you place other idols (the physical church or association of this world) between you and Christ.

  20. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Mikhail,

    I don’t know Jimmy Akins, but I can read. The document says,

    From the Christian confession that there can be only one path to salvation, however, it does not in any way follow that the Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God.

    That the Jews are participants in God’s salvation is theologically unquestionable, but how that can be possible without confessing Christ explicitly, is and remains an unfathomable divine mystery.

    That’s taken from the Vatican Radio website. It’s their translation. And it couldn’t say more plainly that the Jews are saved even without faith in Jesus. This result is defended as a “mystery” based on Rom 11:29 — badly misunderstood.

    Now, if we were to take Akins’ interpretation, what would be the justification for the Catholic Church having no institutional mission effort directed toward Jews as a matter of policy? Surely they want the Jews in heaven. Why then refuse to share the gospel with them at an institutional level? What is so objectionable about that?

    I will grant you that this is not the decision of a church council or the Pope speaking ex cathedra. But it is a decision that the Vatican and the rest of Catholicism will follow in deciding to whom to send missionaries — which makes it the working doctrine of the church.

    (Rom. 10:14-15 ESV) 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

    The practical result of this decision is that fewer Jews will be taught Jesus, which is, to me, a great tragedy.

  21. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    I found the Jimmy Akins article. It’s at http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/new-vatican-document-on-jews-salvation-and-evangelization/

    He actually struggles to defend the document. Cannot explain why the Catholic Church cannot, as a matter of principle, have an institutional evangelistic mission to the Jews. He admits that he finds the use of Rom 11:29 as justification for treating the Jews as saved as difficult to understand (it makes no sense at all).

    He does reference the Catholic version of what some in the Churches of Christ call the “available light” doctrine.

    Thus Vatican II stated:

    Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience (Lumen Gentium 16).

    Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/new-vatican-document-on-jews-salvation-and-evangelization/#ixzz3vYvQbkoK

    That is, those who’ve never heard the gospel may be saved because they’ve never rejected the gospel. I disagree, as this is a works salvation and found nowhere in scripture. But to Akins’ point, this is not what the document is saying because this doctrine only applies to those unaware of the gospel, whereas the document declares all Jews saved, and there are very few Jews who’ve never heard of Jesus and his claim to be the Messiah. So the document is not merely repeating Vatican II’s “available light” doctrine. And Akins seems to understand that.

    What is a bit surprising is that, instead of pointing to the Church’s established teaching that people who do not embrace the Christian faith through no fault of their own can be saved, the document points to elements in St. Paul’s thought in an attempt to show that he would have recognized the possibility of salvation for non-Christian Jews.
    This part of the document is not repeating existing Church teaching, and so it is open to question. Personally, I need to think through the argument they make to see how well it works.

    Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/new-vatican-document-on-jews-salvation-and-evangelization/#ixzz3vYwDF2Zs

  22. Terry says:

    Getting closer to home does Larry’s principle “To place too much dependence upon being within (belonging to a system of this world) may remove you from your place in the Kingdom not of this world, as you place other idols (the physical church or association of this world) between you and Christ” apply to those in a congregation where legalism is preached and practiced as most cofC congregations do?
    If we follow the example of Jesus he didn’t tell the Jews to leave their places of worship because of the false teachings/practices of the priests but he strongly criticized the priests and religious leaders.
    I know many in cofC where legalism is preached and practiced; I do not judge them or tell them to leave.
    Same with my Catholic brothers and sisters, there are many doctrines that are counter to what the bible says but that doesn’t mean that individual Catholics that believe in Jesus are lost. We in the Church of Christ are quick to condemn because we do not preach or practice Grace.
    “T’was Grace that taught…
    my heart to fear.
    And Grace, my fears relieved.
    How precious did that Grace appear…
    the hour I first believed”
    Gospel – Amazing Grace Lyrics | MetroLyrics
    When we understand our condition without Grace we despair and have no hope; but knowing Grace was given freely to us gives us peace, hope and love. Grace propels us to love others as Jesus wants. Grace gives us the heart God wants.
    Those in a denomination that cannot no longer worship there because of conscience where do they go? To a legalistic coC? So i think the emphasis should be giving people a place where they can be loved and worship God with joy and faithfulness. If the Church of Christ became that place think of the glory to God and the families that would be blessed.

  23. John F says:

    Two points:

    1. Having stayed “too long” in trying to effect positive change in a congregation while serving diligently and seeing the continuing result in my children’s lives, I encourage others NOT to STAY too long. (Party isn’t over yet, where there is life, there is hope)…..

    2. The basis for ALL Roman Catholic thought is that the CHURCH (Roman Catholic) is the repository of truth and salvation — to the point that they can say there is no salvation without submission the the pontiff. So the teachings of the OT & NT are authoritative ONLY because the church SAYS they are and to the extent that the CHURCH says they are. The CHURCH determines truth and doctrine; therefore, if the CHURCH says salvation is available WITHOUT faith in Christ — no problem.

    Of course, I have a problem with that understanding. However, I can be supportive WITH them in mutual efforts — value and protection of human life anti abortion efforts, humanitarian relief, etc. without endorsing everything else for which they stand.

  24. Dwight says:

    I think the problem of #2 is a similar problem that we have in the churches today. In the same way the Roman Catholic church believes it is the “repository of truth and salvation” many in our churches teach that our church system or denomination is the “repository of truth and salvation”. In fact this is the biggest problem today in the coC and the more conservative ones. The congregation or people isn’t the “pillar and ground of the truth”, but the church system is.
    This is why we have such publications as “the Guardian of the Truth”, “Truth” magazine, etc.
    This is a Pharisaical problem.
    The Pharisees wanted to control the people’s thoughts, then the Sadducees did, then the Zealots did, and yet many of the people wee just struggling to live and relate to God on their own level. Jesus came in on the ground level and not on the level of the teachers, Rabbis, leaders, elders, Pharisees, etc.Jesus didn’t try to separate the people out into groups, but to separate the people out to God.

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