Archives For Evangelicalism

Church discipline (Matt 18:15-20) is often messy, costly, and accompanied by damage. The pain experienced is typically unmatched when a professing believer must be publicly put out of the local church.

Even so, when practiced biblically, it is consistent with biblical love, care, and obedience to Christ. Mark Dever rightly says that church discipline is “a loving, provocative, attractive, distinct, respectful, gracious act of obedience and mercy, and that it helps to build a church that brings glory to God.” Along those lines, a friend of mine was biblically disciplined out of a large church and to this day he confesses that it was one of the best things that ever happened to him. But more importantly, it’s a matter of non-negotiable in God’s kind of church.

perilousNow, the existence of church discipline in a church does not mean that church is a biblical church. It’s a process that is sometimes abused. However, a refusal to practice it is a certain red flag. It’s one thing if a church leadership has not been practicing church discipline and is attempting to implement it. But it’s quite another thing if a church refuses to practice it. That refusal is symptomatic of other problems, making it an unsafe church.

Here are 10 perils common among churches that will not practice church discipline on you:

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200wordsBaptists, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. All three claim to believe in Jesus. Yet, only one of these groups can be rightly classified as a denomination rather than a false religion.
With that in mind, the question we are asking today might be stated as follows:

What are the marks of cult groups and apostate forms of Christianity that identify them as false religions—such that we can and should label them as heresies, rather than simply classifying them as different denominations?

Here is my attempt to answer that question in 200 words or less:

The New Testament articulates three fundamental doctrinal criteria by which false teachers (and false religions) can be identified: Continue Reading…

Authentic Fire is Dr. Michael Brown’s book-length response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. Because of the importance of this debate, TheCripplegate is using every Thursday to respond chapter-by-chapter to Authentic Fire. You can find an overview of this debate, as well as links to the reviews for each chapter by clicking here.

 afSpirit and Truth, Right Brain and Left Brain

Coming to chapter 8 of Authentic Fire, Dr. Michael Brown explains how charismatics and non-charismatics have something to offer the body of Christ. Rather than fighting, both groups will serve everyone better if they would seek to understand and learn from each other.  That way, both sides will glorify Jesus and touch a dying world [AF, 251]. 

While Brown acknowledges that he believes the Bible clearly affirms his position, charismatics and non-charismatics still have unique contributions to make. What may be one group’s strength, may be another’s weakness, and what may be one’s weakness will be the other’s strength. It is how God established the body of Christ to work together. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:4-5, there are many members, but not all members have the same function. So it is with charismatics and non-charismatics.

Take for instance how non-charismatics are heavily into studying the Word of God. They will know God’s Word inside and out in the original languages and all the theology that goes with that. However, they become so immersed into the “study” aspect of Scripture that they lose the vibrancy of fellowship and lack the empowering of the Holy Spirit. On the flip side, it is all too common for charismatic brethren to pursue the Spirit so heavily that they become sloppy with their Bible study and doctrinal foundations [AF, 257-258].

In order to remedy the differences between charismatics and non-charismatics, Brown suggests what he calls “cross-pollination” with charismatics learning to appreciate expository and doctrinal preaching and reformed congregations learning to include more congregational participation in worship and praise [AF, 260]. There has to be an emphasis upon both spirit and truth together so that all Christians are worshiping God “in Spirit and in truth,” John 4:24.

He then provides some practical examples of what he means. Continue Reading…

200wordsIf someone were to ask me why I’m not Roman Catholic, this would be my answer in 200 words or less:

I believe the Roman Catholic church has seriously erred in three fundamental areas: in its approach to God, the Bible, and salvation.

1) In its approach to God, Roman Catholicism approves the veneration of (i.e. bowing down before) images and relics, encourages praying to the saints, and promotes Mary to a semi-divine status. All of these constitute varying forms of idolatry, which Scripture condemns (cf. Ex. 20:4–5; Lev. 26:1; Acts 10:25–26; Rev. 22:8–9). Continue Reading…

good startI recently discovered that it’s possible to have fruit-bearing citrus trees shipped to your house. When you live far from warmth, as I do, affordable fresh fruit is a coveted commodity. So for example, if you buy a fruit-bearing lemon tree, you will typically be sold one that is four to five years old. That’s because the tree, though not old by any sense of the word, is ready to stand without lemon training wheels and lemon baby-walkers. It’s still small, imperfect, and in need of growth, but it’s alive, standing, and bearing some fruit.

Church planting is similar. Those first five years are critical and determinative. If a church plant makes it to the five-year mark, chances are it’s alive, standing, and bearing some fruit. That said, the goal at the five-year mark is more than a group of people. At five years, the goal is to have been faithful to implement and maintain biblically sound DNA from which disciples are being made for the glory of God. But, like the fruit tree, having weathered the seed-to-sapling phases, its a great time in church planting to pause and reflect on what God has done by his grace in order to prepare for additional days if the Lord wills.

In yesterday’s post, I set out to share a few lessons learned in five short years of church plant life. Here are a few more:

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5-year-old cancer survivor plays pilot for a dayFive years old. Whether humans or trees, it’s a unique developmental milestone. By the time it’s reached, a degree of discovery combined with struggle has been weathered. In many trees, for example, this delicate, seed-to-sapling stage requires the utmost care and attention to survive. Every variable—soil, sunlight exposure, water, support, etc— has to be dialed in if they will survive the fragile seed-to-sapling stages. And if they do, by five years of age, they are able to stably stand on their own.

Humans are no different. The first five years are critical. Just look at the groggy-eyed, young moms and dads around you. And it’s often said that five years of age is that developmental stage when what kids think they can do and what they actually can do is beginning to line up. They’re figuring out that they can’t fly off the jungle gym. Less attempts are made at riding the trike down the stairs.

Gods graceSo it is in the life of a church plant. If you’ve made it that far, you’ve weathered the uncomfortable and delicate seed-to-sapling stages. Your core team probably still likes each other and has even reproduced itself a few times over. If the church plant is stably standing and bearing some fruit, then you’ve probably weathered a few storms; perhaps almost been toppled by them. You’ve seen a lot of people come. And a lot go. Even had to church discipline a few souls. You have seen that every variable needs to be biblically calibrated by God’s grace.

The church I get to serve is about to turn the green age of five. As such, it’s an opportune time to reflect on lessons learned along the way. Now, though turning 5 is somewhat of a milestone, many more milestones are yet needed. So these are merely some pit-stop lessons as a plant seeks to stand on its own. Hopefully there will be many more. But in the meantime, here are a handful of lessons learned from a 5-year old church plant:

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