A Burden for Change

Change is a necessity but rarely is it readily accepted.  Innovation, flexibility, and growth all require changes to take place at personal and organizational levels.  How does this happen?   Specifically, how does this happen in churches?  Might I suggest this pathway: 1) a burden, 2) faith, 3) strategy and implementation, and 4) endurance.

Nehemiah and Ezra are two post-exilic texts that focus on the required changes for Israel’s remnant to regain their place.  Ezra details the religious changes that needed to happen.  Nehemiah focuses on social, political, and religious changes as the protective wall around Jerusalem is rebuilt.  For the next couple of posts, I will be focusing on how the suggested pathway comes from Nehemiah’s example.  Having a genuine burden for change is up first.

We must feel the weight of a burden.

In the first chapter of Nehemiah, the protagonist of the book (Nehemiah) is given terrible news about the condition of Jerusalem.  In 1:4, after hearing the news, Nehemiah mourns several days and begins to pray and fast before God.  The remainder of the chapter records his prayer to God, and we are very quick to note that he is asking God to help with a load of care he now feels in his heart.

This burden affected his usual disposition (2:1-2), and it grew even more as he saw the devastation for himself (2:12-18).  We must have a burden over something before we are convicted of doing something about it.  John Wesley wrote in his sermon, “On Visiting the Sick…”

“One great reason why the rich, in general, have so little sympathy for the poor, is, because they so seldom visit them. Hence it is, that, according to the common observation, one part of the world does not know what the other suffers. Many of them do not know, because they do not care to know: they keep out of the way of knowing it; and then plead their voluntary ignorances an excuse for their hardness of heart. “Indeed, Sir,” said person of large substance, “I am a very compassionate man. But, to tell you the truth, I do not know anybody in the world that is in want.” How did this come to pass? Why, he took good care to keep out of their way; and if he fell upon any of them unawares “he passed over on the other side.”   (Click here to read the rest)

When we are close to the problem, our heart will feel the weight of it.  If change is to happen, we must feel close to it and allow it to be close to us.  We must have a vision of the reality around us if we are going to do anything about it.  Let our pray be, “Lord, open our eyes to see the hurt in those around us.  Give us a burden to share in their pain and the motivation to do something in Your Name.”

 

Cardinal Principles of the Christian Baptist

A couple of weeks ago, I posted A pre-history of the Christian Baptists.  The focus was on the surrounding preceding church culture and events that helped form our foundation.  That is still an area of interest and further research.  Many others were also very interested and is provoking some further research on my part.

The Christian Baptist (officially known as the Ohio Valley Association of Christian Baptist Churches of God), has a beautiful heritage.  You can find more about our history and current context by visiting the website at www.christianbaptistassociation.com.  One of our richest traditions is the annual camp meeting that takes place in Wheelersburg, Ohio.  It will take place in just a few weeks, July 21-30th.  The website has more information provided on it.

Today, I want to write about the cardinal principles of the Christian Baptist.  To be honest, this is something not mentioned often enough.  There is more emphasis placed on articles of faith and bylaws, but those critical statements have a foundation as well.  That foundation is the cardinal principles or distinctive aspects of the Christian Baptist.  Cardinal principles are by definition the most important rules.  All other bylaws and resolutions funnel through this principles.  In a way, the bylaws and faith statements are expressions of these principles.

Due to a lack of attention, have slipped into a state of ambiguity.  It could be that these were not in the original manual printed in 1948.  The next manual in 1980 (at least that is available), does include these principles  This uncertainty is an issue that I would like to address, if for no other reason than to answer the question, “Why Christian Baptist?”

So, what are the principles?  There are six.

The Oneness of the Church of Christ

We know that the Christian Baptist members are not the only ones going to heaven.  We celebrate and affirm many sister denominations in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition and others.  Differences in many denominations and churches many times are based on governance of the churches, the geographical locations, and events that took place in history.  To use the quote,

In Essentials, Unity,

In Non-Essentials, Liberty,

In All Things, Charity (self-giving love).

Christ the Only Head

The Christian Baptist Association is governed by Christ alone.  We feel that he has given the responsibility of leadership to His people as under-shepherds, Christ being the Great Shepherd.  While we do have a General Superintendent, we do not view them as the source of God’s revelation to us.  The person that fills this role has the highest degree of responsibility for the care of the churches, under Christ.

The Bible the Only Rule of Faith and Practice

This principle is expanded in our second Article of Faith, “the scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the inspired Word of God, and that the New Testament is our rule of faith and practice.”  This principle is based on the groundwork of the previous one.  If Christ is the Only Head, the surest way of having His leading is to give complete authority to His Word over us.  Our Articles of Faith and bylaws are closely related to scriptures, especially as it pertains to issues of morality.

Good Fruits the Only Condition of Fellowship

If a member of a Christian Baptist church wishes to transfer their membership to another Christian Baptist Church, the only requirement is a letter from the current church testifying of good standing in that congregation.  With believers who are coming in from another congregation, we do not have a rule that to take membership that they have to have a baptism performed by a Christian Baptist minister if they have previously been baptized in another church.  Of course, this is also based on the pastor of that church and what they feel is the proper steps of discipleship.  Lastly, we do not have a rule that denies participation to the Lord’s supper to non-Christian Baptist members.  The fifth article of faith states, “We believe that the Church of Christ is composed only of those who are partakers of the Holy Ghost and the powers of the world to come.”

Christian Union Without Controversy

The next two principles are the most affected by ambiguity.  The previous four are much easier to define.  Their difficulties are in practice, much more than definition.  This statement, “Christian Union without controversy, ” seems related to scriptural admonitions to have peace with all men.  Still, the end statement, “without controversy” is hard to understand in its intentions.  Does this form the foundation the fairness we aim for in business meetings?  Is this why we use Roberts Rules of Order, and majority votes?  This is an area needing an inquiry.

Each Local Church is a Permanent Member and is Governed by the General Council

The last principle is the real kicker to me.  I remember sitting in the bylaws course for ordination and the teacher saying, “I don’t know what this means either.”  Of course, I have my interpretation now, and that is what I am going to share.  The last part about governance is easy.  Whatever bylaws are accepted that would directly affect a local church, must be adopted by the local churches without question.  When a church wants to join the association, or a new church is formed, they have to be accepted by a majority vote in our general council (where every ordained minister and two delegates from each church comes together for voting and elections once a year).  Once accepted, they can withdraw.  Now, let’s suppose that a withdrawn church wants to rejoin.  My understanding of this rule is that they would only have to notify the council, probably by an official letter.  Their membership would be automatically reinstated.  Now, that’s Christian union without Controversy.  Hmmm.

 

The Second Mile

Last evening, I preached on being a second mile Christian. The text is found in Matthew 5:38-48. It is a small part of the Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In this passage, Jesus is encouraging believers to go above and beyond in a loving reaction to evil actions from others toward them.  We are to react in love towards all things.  Something tough to do at times.  Almost before the service was finished, a gentleman in the congregation was approaching me with a broad grin on his face.  He said to me, “It is neat that you preached on this tonight.  It happened to me today at work.”

He proceeded to share with me that a non-believing coworker had been trying to agitate him all day.  This colleague would walk past this church member and cuss with a loud voice.  It happened several times through the day.  The member said that they wanted to tell them to be quiet and how frustrating it was to them.  Instead, he decided to remain silent because he felt the Lord impressing him not to say anything.  As the day went on, the church member felt God telling them

As the day went on, the church member felt God telling them to take up the trash from his coworker’s work area.  He did that, and the coworker stopped him and asked him what he was doing.  The member explained and said he just wanted to help them out a little today, and it seemed to shock their coworker.  A few minutes later the colleague came and apologized to this man for his language and attitude during the day.

Have you gone the second mile with someone?  Or, have you been the recipient of someone going the second mile for you?  The first mile is responsibility and life.  Those things beyond our control.  The second mile is love and in our control.  These are the opportunities that are given to us every day to show someone the love of Christ.

Fishing Family

We just came back from vacation from Myrtle Beach.  We celebrated Father’s day during our time away, and it gave me some 2016-06-21 12.36.20opportunities to fish.  I grew up fishing, and it was a powerful connection that I shared with my dad and both of my grandfathers.  During those outings, I learned many lessons about life and what it was to be Christian and a man while fishing on the banks of the creek or in a boat.

Now, I can pass this tradition on to my children and wife.  It is something we all love to do (at least for them when the fish are biting).  Fishing for us represents something important for all families.  A time of family fellowship, impartation, and alignment.  You might have something similar or several activities.  Rituals and traditions are important for healthy families.  Daily, weekly, monthly, annual, and life event traditions are powerful and symbolic in the development of a child and for the identity of a family.  What do you do that fills these three vital areas for your family time together?

Fellowship

Psalm 127 and 128 both talk about the importance of home and family.  Fellowship is seen firmly in Psalm 128:3, “thy children like olive plants round about thy table.”  It is important that we spend time together as families, and the dinner table is a central area.  There are other ways to spend time together as well.  The important thing is to communicate, and this might mean putting down the phone and tablets, turning off the TV and video games, and talk to each other.

Impartation

When I am fishing with my children, there is an excellent opportunity to teach them about nature and hopefully, impart some wisdom about life.  I can do the same when changing the oil on my car, reading books, walking the mall, and so forth.  Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a strong reminder to parents to teach our children the Word of God.  Do not be embarrassed or ashamed to take every moment as a teaching moment about God.  Help them see Jesus’s hand in all things.

Alignment

Family traditions and rituals help bring an identity to families.  Our personal identity and family identity ultimately should be integrated into Christ.  It is a beautiful thing if our traditions and rituals help us focus on Christ.  As Joshua exclaimed, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).  Do we honor God with our family traditions and rituals?  Do they provide for fellowship and help us to not only align with our family but also with Christ?

 

A pre-history of the Christian Baptists

The following is a pre-history of the formation of the Ohio Valley Association of Christian Baptist Churches of God, which I am ordained through.  If you would like to know more about us you can find the link here.  This blog examines the surrounding context of our formation and a backdrop for why.

Baptist Tradition in America

Rising from the North American revival called the Second Great Awakening, Baptist groups found themselves in the middle of explosive growth.  The south and in the frontier west found themselves as the locations for this increase and North America, which had in 1812 around 200,000.  Baptist, who were continually growing found themselves with over a million Baptist by 1850 (Noll, Mark A., 2010).  During efforts to organize in the South, many found themselves struggling with the systematic doctrine of Calvinism and were against slavery.  There they found themselves separating from the establishing of the Southern Baptist Convention and became themselves partial Calvinists or Arminian Baptist (Noll, 2010, K.L. 2920).

The Christian Baptist heritage comes from a group of Baptists based in the southern Appalachian Mountains.  Though Baptists, they share a unity with other churches in that area that “sometimes has been called Appalachian Mountain Religious Groups” (Leonard, 2005, p.103).  Practice, belief, and lifestyle by many are shared and allow for much commonality between churches, which is particularly beneficial to the communities.  While seated in a worship service at the Baptist or Nazarene church, it would be commonplace to see those from other Baptist, Holiness, and charismatic background, praising together.  For many, that is because they feel they are “perpetuating” and “retaining” the faith that resembles that of those that first settled their areas, but also that of New Testament Christians (Leonard, 2005, p.103).

Enterprise, Kentucky is the home of the Enterprise Association of Regular Baptist, from which a majority of the first Christian Baptist churches were associated.  The Christian Baptist and Regular Baptist share much in their beliefs as demonstrated in their Articles of Faith.  The Christian Baptist have fifteen articles of faith, and the Enterprise Regular Baptist is eleven.  Each of the eleven is included in the Christian Baptist articles with a few wording variations.  Those variations of word choices in a few key spots separate the two groups into partial-Calvinist/Arminian and what could later be termed a Wesleyan-Arminian faith.

Christian Baptist Formation

The Christian Baptist Manual contains in its opening a section titled the “Origin of the Christian Baptists.”  It starts with the opening statement,

“In the year of 1931, it pleased our Lord to awaken person in the Ohio Valley to the fact that in these last days, the banner of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ needed to be held high and that the Gospel of Christ crucified was needed to be preached in its purity” (2011, p.3)

EmblemOn January 3, 1931, several pastors and leaders from four churches in Ohio and Kentucky met at the North Moreland Church in Portsmouth, Ohio.  With the help of two men from the Scioto Yearly Conference of Free Will Baptists and a representative from the Enterprise Association of Regular Baptists, a constitution, articles of faith, and rules of decorum were drafted.  Van Williams was chosen as the first moderator of the Christian Baptist and thus the association was founded.

The name chosen was originally shorter, “Ohio Valley Association of Christian Baptists.”  Why did it lengthen?  Apparently, a group of churches from California had the name, “Christian Baptist.”  In a meeting it was discovered that the California group indeed had the rights to the name, causing the Christian Baptist Association to rename.  To signify that we believed in holiness and the second work of grace by sanctification, they chose to add three words, “Church of God.”  By doing so, many ministers who had come from a strict Baptist background could more quickly adapt to a baptism of power by the Holy Spirit rather than a total cleansing from sin as the holiness churches taught.

 

References

(2011). Christian Baptist Manual. Wheelersburg, OH: Faith Bible Institute.

Leonard, Bill J., (2005) Baptists in America, New York, NY, Columbia University Press

Noll, Mark A. (2010) A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, Grand Rapids, MI. Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

Three Church Government Structures

We just went through our annual business meeting last week.  Many people cannot stand meetings. I do not hate meetings. In fact, I enjoy meetings (when they are productive and result in action).  If the church you attend provides a way to be involved in these meetings, it is a splendid idea to do so.

During our business meeting, I introduced a term into saying it, “congregational” business meeting.  Some were curious about this distinction and asked me.  Churches are typically led in one of three setups. At times, there seems to a fourth perspective on how churches should be led.

Episcopalian 

In this type of church the pastor, bishop, or priest is the sole decision-making authority in a church. Their power comes from appointment by a higher agency. 

Presbyterian 

Presbyterian style churches elect elders as their representatives. These co-leaders make the decisions and can not be overturned by the congregations.

Congregational 

The congregational model selects leaders generally to a board for administrative purposes. They may have the power to make decisions, but the congregation can overturn decisions and their will if final.

Charismatic (a possible fourth)

This last group is a hybrid between the Episcopalian and Congregational approaches. A pastoral leader may come to the position by a congregational election but then typically moves to lead the church solely. The distinction is that they typically have a charismatic approach to leadership that fuels decision making and the churches followership