Monday, July 28, 2008
Between Three Worlds - Forward March!
So here we stand at the precipice of a new century with what could be a golden providential opportunity before us. Not only could we reshape how the black church and black community think and practice the faith once delivered to all the saints, but we might actually re-form a church that truly includes all the saints.
So in a journey of a thousand miles where do we start?
Determine that reform is both desirable and necessary. There are many we know who for the most part see little if anything wrong within the black church. From their perspective each new successive “move of God” should be welcomed and followed until it fails to titillate and we then move onto something else. Some however see that at this point in time the black church is for the most part living in Ephesians 4:14. Change is necessary and sorely needed. And now is not the time for us to just sit back and watch the black church crash on the rocks of false destructive teaching.
Form a functional connection. This may be the most challenging step that we face. It calls for the growing number of African-Americans embracing reformed theology to let go of our distrust of others and ourselves, learn flexibility and actually begin working toward something meaningful. For some this might be especially difficult because their pain may have caused them to distrust any kind of structure organized for the purpose of expanding the kingdom. Many may genuinely believe that they must go it alone if only to avoid being disappointed by yet another leader. But I don’t think we can allow that to prevent us from engaging our people and our culture with the true gospel of God’s grace. Think how many are still caught in the snare of the wolves who even now ravage the saints.
A functional connection means that we pursue a broadly reformed association for the purpose of impacting the black church and black community with the gospel of God’s grace with the goal of galvanizing the evangelical church to embrace a biblically driven, kingdom focused, Christ centered witness. It means that we will seek out others of like mind and heart and embrace them in fellowship even though they don’t line up exactly with our 34 point criteria for what is truly reformed. It means that we’re willing to work with, support and worship with those who’ve embraced the doctrines of grace, the five solas and long to see them impact the black church, black community and American culture.
Will we all agree on who is baptized and the mode of such baptism? No. Will we all agree on the biblical form of church government? No. Will we all concur on the biblical or reformed way God’s people ought to express themselves in worship? No. Will we all agree on the continuing validity of spiritual gifts? No. Will we all agree on all issues regarding eschatology? No. Should we allow such differences to prevent us from forming a working fellowship? Absolutely not. And no it doesn’t mean that we’re an open ended group in which anyone who is sincere enough can join. By God’s grace and the wisdom of the saints who went before us there are enough creeds and confessions we can all agree on that can form the basis for a working association. Remember I’m calling for a functional connection not a formal one. Those who want a formal connection with a body of believers who share their concerns on the above mentioned issues can probably find at least one reformed denomination to become apart of. For those who cannot then I appeal to you to at least consider linking up with our functional connection.
How shall we begin? Let me give three specific actions and then perhaps in another post suggest a few more.
Generate a unifying statement of faith, identity and vision. A few of us are actually in the process of doing this over at the Council of Reforming Churches. The purpose of the statement is to define what we believe, who we are in Christ and what we hope to see our Lord do in our churches and communities. Our goal isn’t to weed out as many as possible but to give all who wish to join us a realistically biblical basis for working together.
Form regional geographic networks for the purpose advancing biblical theology and practice in our area. These groups could decide to meet a certain number of times per year to pray, fellowship and plan for the revival and even resurrection of God’s church in that area. These networks could have three primary purposes. 1) Draw into fellowship various people and churches seeking to impact the black church and community with biblically reformed theology. 2) Devise strategies for spreading the basic biblical truths of scripture which may be the best way to combat false teaching. 3) Develop church planting networks consisting of existing churches, committed leaders and lay people willing to give of their time and money to do biblically driven church planting.
Draft a uniform training curriculum. Most of us within reformed circles believe that formal education for the ministry is a necessary and wise requirement. However there’s no reason that such an education must happen within a traditional seminary. The wealth of books, DVD’s, MP3’s and whole courses available on the internet means we can construct a robust seminary level curriculum and deliver it within the context of the local church. This means that we can prepare the next generation of ministers, officers and other lay leaders using both an academic and hands on mentored ministry approach. We can also remove the potentially high cost of obtaining a seminary education from the ministry equation of those young men who wish to obtain it but are hindered by finances.
By the grace of God brothers and sisters let’s begin to pray for our Lord to once more revive and enliven His church so that she will indeed live out her calling to be the house of God which is the church of the living God the pillar and foundation of the truth. And then let’s be ready to respond to His answer by joining with those He’s called to press this battle on.
To Him Who Loves Us…