John Nugent’s Endangered Gospel: Wrapping Up, Part 2

endangered gospelSo I’m struggling with this concept of the Kingdom as a preview of heaven. I mean, it’s not mainly about the assembly — right? It’s not about whether we can achieve a phenomenal emotional high on Sunday morning — not that that would be a bad thing. But we can’t let the assembly substitute for a community shaped like the cross.

So how does a local congregation become a community? I mean, what draws a few hundred people together into a spiritual community? How does that happen?

Well, I’m no sociologist or anthropologist, but I think the answer is shared passion and shared experiences.

I mean, I’m an Alabama football fan. I go to many of the games. I watch them all. And so that makes me a part of the “Bama Nation” (even though I’m not a fan of the term since it started with, I think, Florida and “Gator Nation”).

What is it about being an Alabama (or Florida) fan than makes you into a distinct “nation”? I mean, we don’t vote. We don’t pay taxes (unless you count the price of a ticket). We have no king (not even Coach Saban). We just have a shared passion. We enjoy one thing — a lot — and it brings us together. And once a week, during the fall, we gather either at the stadium or around a TV to watch football together — and to talk about games we saw 40 years ago and to remember a long, long history of success.

One of the significant features of Alabama football is the shared memories of exciting moments from the past.

There’s the “run in the mud.”

Hunter vs. Manning (Archie, not Peyton):

Lenny Patrick’s runs to be beat Auburn and give Coach Bryant the all time record for wins:

I just love this stuff!

So anyway … I think the community that forms around college football is built on a shared passion and shared experiences. Countless Alabama fans did not attend the University of Alabama and have not even set foot in Alabama. But they’re part of the Bama Nation and the community of fans — because they’ve watched the games, followed the players, and share a passion.

On the other hand, the community shared by the Bama Nation fanbase is nothing compared to the community formed by the players themselves. Training and competing side by side, working together toward a common goal, creates a much, much stronger bond than merely watching others play football. The players who are on the team today will be at the funerals of the fellow players 60 years later.

It’s like the bond formed by soldiers who go into battle together. You may come from very different cultures and live very different lives, but taking enemy fire and making life-or-death decisions as a unit seeking a common goal will form community like nothing else.

So in the world of church, how do we form community? Well, some churches do it pretty well and some do it very poorly. On the other hand, some churches — not just Churches of Christ — see little importance in community. Rather, they think the important thing is to have orthodox beliefs, participate in the sacraments, and give your tithes and offering. Attendance is emphasized by many, not all, denominations. But few church leadership teams think in terms of intentionally working to form community. But sometimes the Spirit and members manage to do it despite the leaders.

So what forms community?

  • A shared passion. If the members don’t have a passion for the things of Christ, there will be no real community.
    • This is one reason a well-thought and prayed-through vision is so important. It helps the church share a passion — for serving each other, for prayer, for worship, for evangelism, for missions, for service projects … there are countless possibilities. But all passionate churches find at least one Christ-thing to be passionate about together.
    • Obviously, passion can’t be imposed by the leadership. It’s a work of the Spirit and so has to be discerned, not found in an evangelical popular book on how to do ministry. The leaders and members have to, you know, talk to each other.
    • And don’t forget the children. People are passionate about children — and churches that make a point to help parents be better parents and show concern for children will be rewarded with members who are passionate about their congregation.
  • Shared experiences are easier to develop, but it’s the unplanned things that really bring a church together.
    • Working together to host refugees from a hurricane or tornado brings the volunteers together — as well as the members who sacrifice to make it possible. Shared sacrifice forms community like nothing else.
    • Working on a regular ministry does it, too. My church was founded as a campus ministry, and many of our members joined us because of the campus ministry. Even though students are now coming through 40 years after I did, we share the experience of having attended UA and been part of my church’s campus ministry. Passion unites with shared experience to bind us to one another.
    • Fellowship events, picnics, Halloween parties, Christmas plays, and all those sorts of things help create a sense of oneness and shared memories.
    • Testimonies have huge potential, because they let us share someone’s life experience. They can be extraordinarily powerful, far more powerful than a sermon or Bible class or Halloween party.
    • Tragedies bring us together if we’ll deal with the tragedy as a body. 30 years ago or so, a beloved elder had a terminal cancer diagnosis. We met together one Sunday night and prayed. 30 or more men led prayers, passionately calling on God to extend his life. And it knit us together as a congregation.
    • Small groups — if you share a meal in someone’s home. When I invite you into my home, I’ve shared something of myself, and I’ve created an atmosphere usually reserved for family. You cannot replace homes and food. Jesus ate with publicans and sinners — and it wasn’t in a restaurant. It was in someone’s home.
    • Bible class. Well, it’s not the best place to form community unless you do it right. Many years ago, we were part of the “young marrieds class.” Back when we wrote in cuneiform, you know. The elders were kind enough to basically leave us alone. We picked our own materials and teachers, and we ate together after Sunday night church. (This was long before small groups became a thing.) We helped herd each other’s kids, held each other’s babies, and leaned on each other to figure marriage and parenting out. When a new couple visited church, we grabbed them and invited them into our group. We wanted to build our group, and so we helped build the congregation. And we did this for years. And years together made us fast friends. I pity those who’ve never experienced this sort of thing.
    • Accountability groups. We’ve had several groups of four or fewer form to meet weekly for mutual spiritual growth and support. It’s intense, and it forms community.
    • All-church retreats. We’ve not done this in a long time, and you can’t be but so large before this doesn’t work, but we used to have all-church retreats. We’d rent some cabins in the woods, invite a speaker, and plan a weekend for the entire church to eat together, sleep in bunk beds, play volleyball, and have classes on practical Christianity. Oh, and we stayed up until 2 a.m. playing cards and talking and eating fattening snacks.

And I could go on. Elders who see their job as enforcing orthodoxy and making budget don’t understand the social dynamic of what makes a church a community. And it’s not just the social things (fellowships, as we prefer to say). It’s serving each other and serving others and working together to build a church.

So if you want to destroy a church, all you have to do is take all leadership away from the members, move small groups to the building, divide classes by something other than age group and life situation — so it’s hard to find and make friends — and don’t bother making the church attractive to children and their parents.

You see, people are more passionate about their kids and grandkids than just about anything else. Make your church a great place to raise kids, and it’ll grow — not just bigger but as a community. And I don’t just mean having a great children’s program (although that really helps). I mean helping the parents find each other, forming classes and small groups, teaching on parenting and marriage, and making certain the parents feel that the elders are committed to the safety of their children.

One last point: forming community is essential, but forming a cross-shaped community is the goal. Community is not enough, or you’d may as well call the church “country club.” You do this by being certain that your community-forming activities are cross-shaped activities as well. They should involve service, submission, sacrifice — even suffering. Nothing else matters.

Hence, a children’s program that demands little of the parents won’t do the trick. But a children’s program that teaches the parents how to be Christian parents who raise Christian children (Orange) makes a world of difference.

Therefore, fellowships that are just fellowships don’t get you very far in true community formation. There’s nothing wrong with them, but they are not enough. Eating together forms community. Taking communion together forms a cross-shaped community. Service projects done together with passion for those being served (not just the idea of service) form cross-shaped community. Helping parents raise their children to be faithful Christians forms cross-shaped community.

Making people happy does not. Trying to hold a church together politically does not. Avoiding the hard questions does not.

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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29 Responses to John Nugent’s Endangered Gospel: Wrapping Up, Part 2

  1. John F. says:

    Your football analogy breaks down quickly as God does not need nor does He ask for “FANS”. He seeks transformative discipleship. The great shortcoming of much of the evangelical world is that God is treated as the object of our “fan based religion,” complete with cheerleaders (praise teams and bands, for example) and coaches (golden tongued “preachers / pastors” often with huge signing bonuses). The comparisons could go on ad nauseum, but the point is made.

    Fortunately, we are seeing a reaction to the great excesses of emotionally based “worship experiences” through which we become more subjective in our thinking — “If it feels good, it must be okay!” That culturally based thinking has permeated our society since Timothy Leary and beyond.

    God made it clear to Cain that if he “did right” Cain’s countenance would be lifted up. DOING RIGHT precedes “feeling right.” More to say, but I have the privilege of meeting some brothers for coffee and prayer. Spiritual worship is much more valuable than an “emotional” high.

  2. Jeff Richardson says:

    Well said John. If you catch them with a gimmick, a gimmick will be needed to keep them.

  3. David Himes says:

    We are all failures at DOING RIGHT. So Christian community must be based upon something more than that. And if you actually ask what people believe, you’ll find out that on many matters, we don’t even agree on many doctrinal issues.

    I believe God called us to gather together, because we are his redeemed. If we really get that, it changes how we interact with each other and everyone else.

    Many times in my life, I have marveled at the isolated lives of people who are not part of a Christian community. Some don’t have someone they can call for help with even small matters. And in my life as a believer, I’ve never doubted I could find someone to help.

    It is difficult to capture and express all the reasons why gathering together is good for believers — but doctrinal purity is low on the list for me.

  4. Kevin says:


    I have to disagree. I think I understand what you mean, but I also think you have overstated your argument. Does God desire “fans”? Well, it depends on how you define “fans,” doesn’t it? IMO, Jay is pointing to two key characteristics of football fans: passion and devotion. Now, does God desire those two characteristics in his people? Certainly. Are you a fan of Jesus? I should certainly hope so because the alternative is that you are not a fan of Jesus.

    Whoever said that worship should be emotionless? How did that become popular? That’s not what I read in the biblical narrative. I find lots of instances of emotion and passion. David practically dances in his drawers because he was so emotional.

    I get it. The purpose of worship shouldn’t be about self or getting emotional for the sake of getting emotional. But there is nothing wrong whatsoever with worshiping God in spirit and in truth and being emotional or enjoying worship at the same time. To necessarily drive a wedge between worship and emotion / enjoyment just isn’t biblical.

  5. John F. says:

    WE could discuss FOREVER what doing right means and how it is expressed in various cultures — i.e. modesty. I recall when American missionaries were “horrified” and African women’s exposed breasts, and quickly gave them shirts and blouses to “cover up”. The African women promptly cut holes in “appropriate” areas to allow the kids to nurse freely. The list goes on, but the clear point is that we must be in submission to “doing right”. The Bible was written to inform every culture for all ages (otherwise the HS has failed to deliver on the promises of Christ — into all truth (John 16:13). and to invite every culture to be conformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29, 12:2). Culture does not “inform and conform” the church; the church is to be a “light to the nations”, inviting the nations to see and conform (one person at a time) itself to the will of God; thus confirming the Word.

  6. Dwight says:

    John F., David is right…we are all failures at doing right. This was Paul’s argument in Rom.3:12 and argument against himself in Rom.7. Now this doesn’t mean that man can’t do good, but rather that man will do evil as well and can’t be purely good. Man will struggle to do good over evil, he can win, but there will still be a struggle.
    Now are we called on to strive for good, I don’t believe so, I think we are called on to strive for God and/or Jesus and in doing so we should do good as a result. Good doesn’t get us to heaven, God does. When we think we are right, we are self-righteous.
    In regards to the sports analogy and fans, let’s recount how many times sports and sport fans are mentioned in the OT. They are not there. They didn’t have a sports base or even an entertainment base, they had a God base. They didn’t go to sporting events or movies, they went to the Temple or had feast or worshiped God in song or the burning of incense or in prayer in their lives. We think from a secular bend towards God, we separate God from that which we don’t want God involved in, but we need to think the opposite, a Godly bend towards secularism to the point there is nothing secular. In the OT God was involved not only in worship, but in life.
    Unfortunately we in the coC have swung the pendulum from “emotional” worship to “non-emotional, thinking” worship, or so we think. Neither side is correct. The word for love in the OT is ‘ahab and it means “desire/desire for”. We are to have a desire for God and do his will out of this desire. The book of Psalms, written by a man after God’s own heart, is dripping with emotional thinking.
    You say, “Spiritual worship is much more valuable than an “emotional” high.”
    Who says that they can’t be both? Who says that emotion cannot drive knowledge and that knowledge cannot drive emotion or at least drive each other together. Why do we separate spiritual from emotional as if they are different or opposed to each other?
    It took just a short emotional laced dialogue about Jesus to turn many people to Christ and convert many, even before they had all truth., but they had enough…Jesus is the savior and Son of God. When we read Revelations we see emotion…raw emotion in worship towards God….we don’t see them sitting down reading the scriptures. The scriptures are written on their hearts which are expressed in rejoicing.
    The early saints had just one thing in common at first…Christ and this was enough to bind them and then they blended into one in Christ. If one person suffered they all suffered. One person didn’t give, they all gave…to each other. This crossed based community is called family (of God) and body (of Christ) for a reason.

  7. John F. says:

    You may have missed the point: submission means seeking what is right to do, not just what is right to feel. In a trichotimist view, Satan largely seeks to reach us through the flesh (emotions) while God seeks to reach us through our Spiritual nature (soul being the place for the battle).

    Emotions are fickle — depends on what I may have had for lunch (or not). If our emotions lead the way, we will certainly go astray. We have a “revealed” will of God. That is the primary point.

  8. Dwight says:

    John, I agree to a point, meaning that they do not have to be in opposition to each other. What we feel is right to do can indeed be what is right to do. If I not knowing much about the scriptures after I have been baptized, vocally praise God, this is right and I might not have known that I was supposed to do or not do that as a response. We aren’t after all commanded to do this directly after baptism.
    If we go around seeking what is right to do, we might miss God. The Pharisees sought what was right to do and totally missed God. They were not what we would call emotional led people as they always had the scriptures right in front of them, but they lacked compassion and love. If the Pharisees would have sought God they would have did right.
    I have never heard that Satan seeks to reach us through the emotions and that this is equal with the flesh. God is emotional and doesn’t have flesh. I do agree that we are led away by the flesh and that Satan helps us along the way, but we aren’t often doing this by emotion, but sometimes we reason it out. Pride of life means we have reasoned it to be good for us on some level…Adam and Eve though the tree would, because they would know good and evil. make them like God.
    I know as many people who are led away by knowledge and human reasoning as they are emotions. David’s emotions were largely not fickle as they were directed mostly towards God. Now did he fall to lust and covetousness, yes, but this wasn’t necessarily an emotional thing, but one of self. If he would have been more emotionally bound to God during this time, he wouldn’t have bowed to himself.
    So I don’t buy the old adage that it is emotions that lead us astray, it is self and we can make emotional or non-emotional excuses. Passion in itself is not a bad thing, passion for the flesh…bad, passion for Jesus…good. When we read Psalms we see David was highly passionate for God. Jesus was highly passionate for the people, Jerusalem, his apostles and the earth and even Lazarus. Paul was highly zealous…strong passion. Desire is bad when it has no Godly direction, because it will then be self-directed.
    We do have the revealed will of God…we should follow it with “all our heart, with all our mind and with all our soul”. The heart denotes feeling. the mind with thinking, the soul with who we are.
    If anything emotion is a nature of God, as we were made in the image of God who has emotion.
    We must follow God with a clear head, but also with a yearning heart. We must read the scriptures about Christ death, but feel his pain and suffering and love.
    If what you say is true, then we need to take all of the melodies out of our song books and only read them, because the melodies add an emotional element and often lead the words and help us emotionally relate to the thoughts involved. Ironically music was a large part of the worship to God and God desired it.

  9. John F. says:

    When was the last time a team said to a fan, “If you don’t come to the games, we are going to cancel your season tickets. Yes, you paid for them, but we simply must expect you to attend, and not “give them away.” The fan is the one who is in control, the “team” accepts whatever offer the fan wants to give, whenever the fan wants to give, and why ever the makes their decision. God is NOT a sports franchise to whom we decide and choose how to respond. God places DEMANDS on disciples. God DEMANDS we respond in spirit and truth.

    While the CofC “prided” itself on truth; it sadly lacked the spiritual nature of worship. Emotions are highly fickle — did I worship in spirit and truth BECAUSE I FELT GOOD, or because I submitted myself to a revealed word? Doing right precedes feeling right.

    In a trichotomist view, Satan largely seeks to capture (appeal) us through our flesh and emotional nature. God seeks to appeal to our spiritual nature. Emotional is not the same as spiritual. If we cannot discern the difference, we are likely to make serious errors.

  10. John says:

    Considering, though we try to hide it, how wounded and scarred all of us truly are, the poet Adrienne Rich says it well:

    The most that we can do for one another
    Is let our blunders and our blind mischances
    Argue a certain brusque abrupt compassion

  11. Dwight says:

    John F., so God DEMANDS we come to Him. Really? scripture please. God Demands we worship Him in Spirit and in Truth? Really? scripture please.
    Let’s read scripture “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” God is seeking such, not demanding ones to willfully worship Him. Even in the next verse “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” must- needs, ought, should.
    “God wants (desires) all men to come to the truth.”
    When was the last time you heard someone get up at the end of a sermon and say, “God demands you to be saved”?
    When Jesus said to His disciples “follow me” he gave them the choice and didn’t force them to.
    God hasn’t removed man’s will and actually depends upon it in His compliance.

    I know you have said “trichotomist view”, but you only mention emotion. Trichotomy has to do with the concepts of “body, soul and spirit”, not emotion.
    Hasn’t Satan also caught up those in knowledge as well. Yes, he has. In fact knowledge is more warned against in the scriptures than emotion is.

    This talk on emotion reminds me of a joke.
    A man goes up to a lady and says, “will you sleep with me for a thousand dollars”, to which she say she will. He then ask “will you sleep with me for ten dollars”, to which she replies, “Of course not, what kind of lady do you take me for.” To which he says, “I already know what kind of lady you are, now we are just haggling price.”

    The point is that we want to place a value on an action, it is good when subdued, it is bad when done beyond what we will accept. We in the church have our acceptable level of emotion, subdued is good, but when it exceeds our accepted value, then it is bad and we think the worst of them, in fact we think they are being driven by what they feel and not what they know. David would have been rejected in our coC churches, because he dared to show more emotion and be emotional beyond what we perceive to be equal in value or below value of the knowledge involved.
    Fan is short for fanatic and I hope we are all fanatical or zealous for God, built upon the knowledge of His word and the Word, Jesus.

  12. John F. says:

    trichotomy sees reason/emotion as components of the soul; sorry if I should have been more explicit. No, of course God does not “demand” we be saved, but when only one way to salvation and relationship with Him is given — “demand” is the functional equivalent — He “demands” that we come to Him through Christ — “no other name given among men. . . ”

    The cultural milieu is that God will accept me just as I choose to be (continuing in sin that grace may abound, but I CHOOSE not to call it sin, therefore as I choose to live is okay), not what He will transform me into — His own image and that of Christ. (a) God said it — (b)That settles it — (c) I believe it.

    The bumper sticker that reverse parts B & C would make truth subject to MY understanding and agreement. Whether I believe it or not is immaterial to the case.

    The question is whether our emotions are to be controlled by our spirit or our flesh. Much of today’s “Christian” rock only has the lyrics changed from the hard rock. Those who are gifted musically have a tremendous responsibility to appeal to our spiritual rather than our fleshly natures. It would not take long to see the growing rebellion against the “fleshly Christian” worship experience. And so the never ending pendulum swings; likely never to stop, but prayerfully not to swing so violently. We likely will never find the “true stopping point” for the swings, submission to the spirit is the right direction. If the cofC would spend as much time in “worship in Spirit” as they did / have on “worship in truth” we would all be better served. (And “no, the Spirit is NOT the Word only, but the Spirit always drives us back to the Christ revealed in the Word.)

  13. Dwight says:

    John F., The term “demands” is only found three times in the scriptures.
    One time is in I Sam.10:7 “And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you.” so they had to reason among themselves when to do it about the signs they saw.
    Now God told Jonah to go to Ninevah, this would be a demand and he did this twice. Jonah didn’t do it the first time, but did do it the second time. The demand wasn’t acquiesced to by Jonah, until Jonah realized he couldn’t escape his job as a prophet.

    But when we get to the NT the concept of demanding by God is not really seen on the same level.
    In most cases God doesn’t demand, because God does care what we think and why we do it.
    Which is why, “God desires all men to come to Him.”
    God wants a willing individual. He just doesn’t want us to do his commands, but “if you love me you will keep my commands.”
    And yes, I agree with your last paragraph.
    BTW, the bumper sticker is man-made and not found in the scripture. It might express truth, but you could easily remove (b) and it would be correct. And I’m not sure why reversing (b) and (c) is wrong, after all you are still attaching belief to God and then saying “that settles it”. The only way to mess up the bumper sticker is to either replace God with man or say “I don’t believe it”.
    My thought is that once we include emotion into worship and it should be there, we don’t have a good scriptural argument for what is too much or too little, as much as it comes down to our preferences. But tone is another matter. I hate heavy metal and think that to pair something so dark with words that are supposed to glorify and uplift is a contradiction. And yet I have sang some songs that have glorious music and bad wording or multiple intwined choruses so to make it unintelligible.
    Our understanding and emotions should always be led by the Spirit.
    God Bless

  14. Jay Guin says:

    John F,

    Much of today’s “Christian” rock only has the lyrics changed from the hard rock.

    I’m not aware of a single example of this. The copyright laws would make it illegal. Have you been reading tracts from the 1960s? Briefly, there was a time when youth ministers did write lyrics to popular music (not hard rock, in my experience) but they quickly learned that this was illegal and the practice ended before I graduated from high school in 1972.

    I listen to quite a bit of contemporary Christian music. None of it is hard rock with the lyrics changed.

    Can you name an example of a Christian rock song that “only has the lyrics changed from the hard rock”?

    Now, if your point is that there is such as thing as Christian hard rock, that’s true. But I’m not sure why I should be concerned.

  15. Jay Guin says:

    John F wrote,

    In a trichotomist view, Satan largely seeks to capture (appeal) us through our flesh and emotional nature. God seeks to appeal to our spiritual nature. Emotional is not the same as spiritual. If we cannot discern the difference, we are likely to make serious errors.

    I was not aware that some theologians teach a trichotomy of body, soul and spirit (not Spirit) but looked it up and it is a teaching.

    I do not find the theory helpful. Several times, I’ve gone through the Hebrew and Greek and read every single reference to “spirit” or to “soul.” While someone may well be able to construct a theory of the nature of man using those words, the Bible does not support humans as having three distinct elements, with soul and spirit distinct from body.

    In particular, I would question any argument built on the theory that our emotions are fallen (and hence prone to sin) whereas our intellects are not fallen and we can trust our intellects but not our emotions.

    First, my experience is that my own intellect and everyone else’s is fallen, just as is our emotional nature. That is, we all make mistakes in reasoning quite independent of emotion. I mean, when I lose in chess, it’s not because I was too emotional. It’s because my intellect wasn’t up to the task. It was insufficient to find the winning move even though there was a winning move.

    Even if we could travel to Vulcan and purge ourselves of emotion through meditation, our intellects would still be fallen. The reason so many people disagree about so many theological issues is not just that we are emotional beings. We are also intellectual beings — and our intellects make mistakes.

    Also, it’s hard to draw a line between mind and body. My emotions are affected by my serotonin and nor-epinephrine levels, which are body things. I can take pills that change my emotional state. Emotions are therefore at least in part a manifestation of the body.

    But our bodies are plainly fallen things, too. They get sick. They die. They have genetic flaws. People get depressed due to disease or genetic flaws in their bodies.

    So we are fallen in all aspects of our human natures. And we are taught that the path to God involves loving God — an emotion. And loving our neighbor. An emotion. We are to have circumcised hearts — and “heart” refers to the seat of our emotions.

    The Spirit is given to Christians to help them overcome their fallen state — and God’s cure is complete. We’ll be given new bodies. Our minds will be renewed by the Spirit (Rom 12:1-2). The Spirit will generate “fruit of the Spirit,” which are emotions, but the right kinds of emotions.

    So it’s easy to find passages about getting our emotions properly managed, but we ignore the ones about fixing our minds.

    So how where does Satan attack us? Well, everywhere that we are weak, and we have weak bodies, minds, spirits, souls, emotions.

    It’s a Greek/Western worldview to assume that our emotions are the source of our failings. The Jews, I believe, had a more accurate understanding of the nature and brokenness of man — we’re singular, unitary beings, but there are aspects of our existences that can be separated — emotion, mind, body, etc. But these are not separate, distinct things. They connect and overlap. In fact, much of our mind is provably physical and part of our body. Much of our emotion is driven by our intellects — and by our bodies.

    In the Churches of Christ (and many other places) there’s this notion that morality is a failure of emotion, which is fallen and so needs grace — but on intellectual issues (like doctrine) we are capable of perfection and so don’t need grace. (I’m not suggesting that you believe this.) And so separating emotion from mind tends to lead to theological nightmares.

    The OT and NT point of view is that it’s all part of the same being, man, and man himself in all his aspects needs to be renewed by God through the redemptive work of Jesus. And that leads to a broader view of grace and truer understanding of man, I think.

    And so I stand by my assertion that community is formed by shared experiences and shares passions. Humans don’t form community purely as an act of intellect. That’s not how we’re made. We need to be physically in each other’s presence — bodily — and so we assemble and visit in homes. We need an emotional bond — love, koinonia — which is found in common experience and a common passion. We need to agree on faith in Jesus — which is intellectual but not just intellectual — and so we have classes and we study together.

    We often overlook the “together” part because we think we’re smart enough to autonomously find truth all by ourselves. But because we are intellectually fallen, we need each other to help us correct our mistakes and find insights we couldn’t have found on our own.

    (Matt. 6:22-23 ESV) 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

    It’s all connected. We are fallen in every aspect of our natures. And so we need to form community with God, Jesus, the Spirit, and each other in order to overcome our utter fallenness.

  16. John F. says:

    JG: “I was not aware that some theologians teach a trichotomy of body, soul and spirit (not Spirit) but looked it up and it is a teaching.”

    I guess I started my thinking with Paul (I think he counts as a theologian): 1 Thess 5:23: Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    JG”In particular, I would question any argument built on the theory that our emotions are fallen (and hence prone to sin) whereas our intellects are not fallen and we can trust our intellects but not our emotions.”

    I did not say the above, and I do NOT diminish the importance of emotion. And pride in intellect can easily be the source of temptation.

  17. Larry Cheek says:

    In your comment, “I do not find the theory helpful. Several times, I’ve gone through the Hebrew and Greek and read every single reference to “spirit” or to “soul.” While someone may well be able to construct a theory of the nature of man using those words, the Bible does not support humans as having three distinct elements, with soul and spirit distinct from body.”
    You have stated specifically that, soul, spirit and body is not a concept that describes the composition of a human. Since all three of these terms are used while communicating about a human you must be combining two of these terms into one. This requires me to ask which of the three are you combining? The body we can easily see is the fleshly form of a human. This form will die and be buried in the ground unless The Lord comes first. The spirit and the soul we cannot see but writers of the NT reference both in a context that keeps them from being identified as the same (object), and they both are not subject to being killed by another human. Paul uses all three identities in the following verse in a context that identifies each different from the other.
    1Th 5:23 ESV Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Hebrews describes that the The Word can divide soul from spirit, in the same way as a sword can divide joints from marrow and thoughts and intentions. This declares that just as joints/marrow and thoughts/intentions are not the same objects (if they were they could not be separated) soul and spirit can be separated.
    Heb 4:12 ESV For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
    Jesus states that the there are powers which can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Does that mean that the soul is not contained within the body that dies? If it is not in the body what power on earth is there which has the power to kill the body, could find a soul to kill it, is it because that power cannot find it, that it cannot kill it? Well I understand, that the creator is the only power capable to kill a soul, not even Satan. Satan can only influence a human (body) to forfeit his own soul to the creator for destruction..
    Mat 10:28 ESV And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
    Then Jesus states that there is a power which can kill both, and warns us to fear that power.
    He also states that a human who gained the whole world, and forfeited his soul, would not have enough assets to gain back his soul. His soul? Something that belonged to him before he forfeited it. Where was it located if it was his possession?
    Mat 16:26 ESV For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
    Mar 8:36 ESV For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
    Mar 8:37 ESV For what can a man give in return for his soul?
    Jesus said that the soul and mind are both under the control of a man.
    Mat 22:37 ESV And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
    Luk 10:27 ESV And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
    Heb 10:37-39 ESV For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; (38) but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” (39) But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
    Hebrews states that a Christians soul will not be preserved if the Christian shrinks back.
    James states that a brother in Christ can be instrumental in the salvation of another mans soul from death. The body is going to die, but the soul can survive the death.
    Jas 5:19-20 ESV My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, (20) let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
    Peter states that the soul of a man is at the mercy of the passions of the flesh of a human (his body).
    1Pe 2:11 ESV Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

    These all seem to me to identifying that all humans have a body and a soul, they are not the same but each is separately effected by the actions of the body. Then could we be so bold to deny that the Christian does not have a spirit. We have been informed in many NT scriptures that God has placed his Spirit within us as we have accepted Jesus as our Savior and become one of his disciples.
    Thus a Christian is body, soul and spirit.

  18. John F. says:

    As Larry (thanks for “fleshing [flesh is not bad, but beautiful, a “fleshly nature” not so good {Rom.7}]” out my proposition) points out from 1Peter 2:11– “passions of the flesh, … wage war against your soul.” The primary point I have sought to make is that God has revealed His will to us, and THAT revelation is the determinant of truth, not my emoted response to something. Emotion is to be subject to revelation — emotion is NOT the determinant of truth. “How can what FEELS so good be wrong?” It can be wrong because it does not comport with revelation.

    John F. says:

    Dwight, are DEMANDS a separate thing from COMMANDS? Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, love one another (as I have loved you)”. Is the commandment not a demand to comply / yield / submit? The “relational theology” so popular in certain areas tends to diminish the importance of the demands (oops, should say…) commands that are to control that relationship, as though the children are equal partners in the relationship (how does that work well even on the individual family level?). We are the clay, neither the potter nor the wheel.

  19. Monty says:

    I like to engage with Christians of other camps and especially if they are African American. Just this morning I asked a lady where I often get breakfast, “If she had a good service yesterday.” She answered very expressively with a smile on her face “Oh yes!’ It was wonderful! she “got to usher ” yesterday. She considered it a joy. She attends a church, a congregation, where worship starts in the morning and lasts into the afternoon and she loves (with emotion expressed) every minute of it.

    I find that to be quite a contrast from my experiences and observations in the CofC. I seriously doubt that if you asked many members of the CofC how was worship yesterday? If you would often find peoples faces light up with a big smile and say emphatically, “it was great” or “wonderful” or “soooo good.”

    In many a member’s mind a “good service” is one where most of the members showed up and the singing was good and the preacher go them out on time. With a heavy emphasis on getting out on time. But hardly something that would light up their faces the next day when asked about. In the COfC a good service is one where everyone did things “decently and in order”, code for like a funeral service. Most of the time we focus not so much on the emotion or the intellect but on did we follow a pattern of a+b+c= true worship. Somehow true worship is often void of much emotion. As a matter of fact many would probably believe emotion gets in the way of true worship. And so consequently we have worship services week after week where rarely, if ever, a tear is shed or a hallelujah or praise the Lord gets spoken. And we believe God likes it that way. Sad.

  20. Dwight says:

    I would gather that those that argue “If you feel it do it” are largely not part of the religious community of Christ or are a small minority. I know there have been many coC tracts written, but I have barely seen an example of this kind of thinking among the many Christians I have known, except when they leave Christ. They mostly all recognize the word and argue that they are indeed guided by the word, even when they lean towards the emotional side of a reaction. This would apply even to those who believe in on-going prophesies. Now they might whole heartedly jump into emotion and dwell in it, but they usually argue from a scriptural reason for doing so.
    From what I have seen most who practice and teach “How can what feels so good be wrong” are of the atheist leaning.
    Body, soul and spirit. All three are given as dimensions of the human. Body-the flesh. Spirit-that which animates. Soul-what which you are-personality. When we look Jesus, he was spirit who came into the flesh. Even though we can mentally separate these characteristics, I think we have a poor understanding of where one begins and the other ends, after all we are all one together at this point and time. We don’t even have clear understanding of what happens when we die. Although the body dies, does the spirit leave a temporary place, as I think it does or just reside in the grave? What about the soul, can it be separated from the spirit and how, especially when the spirit returns to God? Etc.
    Fortunately for us we don’t have to know how, we just have to know that God is in control of the process.
    And if the soul is truly who we are, personality, then this must exist, thus in heaven we will retain that which we were without the flesh. We will be who we were and so will others, just changed in form.

  21. Dwight says:

    John F. Demands are a forceful statement in which you say that something must be done, while commands are the orders by authority.
    While God does give many commands, he is not demanding in the way he gives them. This was the purpose between the covenants or agreement of in doing them. In the OT we see God said if you would do them all would be well for you and Israel agreed to do them. Even when Israel failed in doing them, God still upheld his side of the covenant.
    God just didn’t give a list of demands to Israel, but he gave a list of commands based on God’s love for His children. He always had Israel’s best interest at heart.
    I am doing a study on love right now and it is love that is the driving force of why we do things.
    While it is true that we have commands to love, there are four major ones in fact 1.) love God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind, 2.) love your neighbor as your self, 3) love one another, just as I have loved you and 4.) love your enemies
    But these are all based upon this one statement:
    Exodus 20:6 “but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
    I John 5:2-3 “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”
    And as willing participants, converts, who come to Jesus and God, we in our love will or should keep His commandments. Even the following of the commands to love are based on our willingness to follow God and love God. So the commands are more like strong directives that have rewards and penalties involved.

    An interesting thing is that the word most used for love in the OT is ‘ahab (or some variant of) and it means desire or desire for. When Jesus stated all of the love commands he most like used ‘ahab or desire and not agape, because at least two of them were pulled from the OT.
    Now desire is us wanting another to the extent we will do anything for them, which is why the Septuagint replaces all of the words ‘ahab with agape. This should be our position to God.

    And yes, he is the potter and we are the clay, but we put our clay in God’s hands, right, he doesn’t take us and mold us without our say so or against our will. We subject our will to God’s will, but we still have will, but now we shape it to God’s will and thus give God control. God is over us no matter what in all ways. but submission is about us putting ourselves under God in all things. We are also supposed to submit ourselves to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

  22. Dwight says:

    Sometimes I think we think of God as a bad King who subjects His servants to His whims to the point we must do things simply because we are His servants. But God is a good King who thinks of us not as His servants, but as His children and has us approach Him as our Father. He doesn’t ask us to do things that are good for Him, I mean what does He need or what can we give Him that he needs or doesn’t have or want, but he ask us to do things that in the end help us. He is such a good King that he treats us as His children and wants to know what we think (prayers) and will even allow us to change His mind. He does ask for the respect and praise that is due Him, but He doesn’t diminish us when we do that, but lifts us up. And yes, God has told us to do things and does have expectations, but they aren’t unreasonable expectations and God does have patience and is long-suffering with us, but not to the point of life-long total rejection and rebellion. But even God gives us opportunity to come back, despite out path that departs from His.
    God is not only God, but He is Good. And He loves us and desires reciprocation. The wrath of God on the created is stilled by us seeking God, the creator, even imperfectly, because He loves us as His free-will children and not as His Frankenstein monsters.

  23. Jay Guin says:

    John F wrote,

    She answered very expressively with a smile on her face “Oh yes!’ It was wonderful! she “got to usher ” yesterday.

    Blessed are the poor in spirit.

  24. Monty says:


    That’d be me that wrote that. It’s OK I’ll just chalk it up to the meds.

  25. John F. says:

    Monty, thanks for the clarification.

  26. Dwight says:

    I find “Fellowship events, picnics, Halloween parties, Christmas plays, and all those sorts of things help create a sense of oneness and shared memories.” to be highly secular, meaning not ungodly, but without God within the context of them. While we argue that we should be bound in Christ, shouldn’t we also argue that Christ should be bound in us in all that we do. Nothing should be secular if done by secular people. I’m not saying that everything we do is a “worship service”, but rather that everything we do have God within it in some way.
    If many saints get together to have a Halloween party, shouldn’t this also be a great time to read from the scriptures or sing to God. Would this ruin the event? Shouldn’t we express our Christian fellowship by doing something that shows we are indeed Christians and that Christ is within the context of whatever we do? And if the introduction of Christ into whatever we are doing is enough to kill the mood, perhaps we shouldn’t be doing it. This is how we make our church a Christian community shaped like the cross.

  27. Jay Guin says:


    I agree that Halloween parties (“Fall Festivals” is the fashionable term) are woefully inadequate to form a spiritual community. They help. They are not nearly enough because they tend to be purely social and have no elements unique to the Kingdom.

    On the other hand, I’ve never liked taking a secular-ish event and trying to spiritualize it by reading scripture or sticking a devo on it. All you’ve done is created a second event because the devo or whatever isn’t really part of the Halloween party. It’s just so inorganic. It doesn’t really connect.

    Rather, I’d prefer that we show our Christianity by being good hosts, inviting friends, and acting like Christians. I’d show off the goodness of our people through their hospitality and friendliness — hardly unique to Christianity but it would help break negative stereotypes.

    I’d try to stay away from some of the silliness that typify many Christian fall events. That is, if kids want to dress up as Harry Potter or a witch or the devil, I’d let them. It’s pretend! Kids know the difference. Let them have fun.

    On the other hand, at my church, we typically invite kids from the poor neighborhoods where we serve throughout the year, not to show off our social works but because these kids should get to have fun at church with their friends and adults who’ve tutored and counseled them.

    If the church is truly active in the community, just the guest list will show off the church’s appeal to the community — and so you invite these kids because you know them and love them.

    That is, if the church serves its community, its Halloween party will organically, authentically demonstrate who they really are very naturally — and this will impress guests far more than a devo tacked on at the end.

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