Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pastors and Churches That Accept Our Former Members

What do churches and pastors do with members of other churches who come to them?  Our church has nothing to do with this subject right this moment, so this isn't personal.  It is a regular issue all over the country and I think pastors should consider their policy, whether they are handling this occasion in a scriptural way.

I have never had a pastor call me about a former church member.  I'm telling you, I've been pastoring for thirty years, and I've never had another pastor call me about a church member who has left our church.  When I say "left our church," I mean of all types of leaving, including church discipline.  On the other hand, I have called other pastors about members who have left their churches every single time -- every time.  How could I pastor for thirty years and never have another pastor call me about someone who has left our church?  Hopefully that sounds really bad to you.  It's true though.  What is with men who practice this way?  Do pastors and churches even care?

Other churches have taken in our disciplined members.  One lady who was a member of our church had committed adultery, so we disciplined her, she was unrepentant, so we removed her from our church.  She went to a local evangelical church, called a "Bible church." She told them she was from our church.  They were fine with her being there.  She told them she had committed adultery and had been disciplined out, and that was fine too.

Our church disciplined a man from the church and he went to another independent Baptist church about thirty minutes away.  That church accepted him in.  Our church sent a letter to that church and offered them the opportunity to reconcile with us, because they had taken in a disciplined member. That was our attempt to remain in fellowship.  They rejected even having that meeting.

When people talk about unity and fellowship, very often they mean "putting up with false doctrine and bad behavior."  If you are not willing to put up with false doctrine and bad behavior, you are causing disunity.  If you were to join a group of churches in a meeting, and there you saw your disciplined member, the right behavior is to keep your mouth shut and act like nothing happened. This is called fellowship.  The one who opens his mouth would be called divisive, a harm to unity. I'm not kidding.

Several years ago, the closest church in doctrine and practice in our area got a new pastor.  I called him and invited him to lunch, mainly to talk about this very subject.   We both agreed that if someone from his church came to ours, I would give him a call.  If someone came from our church to his, he would give us a call.  In the years following, we had one person come from his church to ours, and I called him.  We had three different people go their church and I never received a call, not one time.

Later I saw the pastor of the previous paragraph at an event and I asked him why he went ahead and took in our members without a call.  He said he didn't think it would matter since our church separates over certain doctrine, so that we weren't in fellowship anyway, so he didn't think it mattered if he called or not.  I have found this typical of fundamentalism.

Even if two churches are not in fellowship, they should not allow members to hop from church to church without a call.  It's possible that people have a good reason for leaving a church.  Perhaps they should be in your church.  You should still call the other church for many reasons.

One, a church deserves respect even if it isn't doing right.  Two, churches shouldn't allow people to run from unrepentant sin.  That's about God -- He should be respected.  Three, nothing tests fellowship like what churches do with members of another church.  If churches really are about fellowship or unity, they have to try to unify where it really counts, not in the sentimental fake unity. Four, pride is involved with the thinking that you can take someone and work them into your church, who has left another church.  Five, people need to be taught to deal with their problems correctly even if they should have left the other church.

No pastor or his church wants other pastors and churches believing lies about them.  When a person comes to your church from another church and says the former church stunk, that could be a lie. The former church deserves due process. We want due process, so we should give due process to others too. Believing whatever someone else tells you about another person is not a biblical or godly practice.  We should give someone else or another church an opportunity to defend themselves.  Even if we wouldn't fellowship with that church, we don't have the right to believe a lie about it.

I get what happens.  Your church member goes to another church.  That church sees a new member. You know, who doesn't want a new member?  If you get a new member, your church gets bigger. Getting bigger is good, is the reasoning.  If you behave like you are going to call the former church and maybe believe that church, you may lose a new member.  Instead of risking the loss of a new member, you do not make the call.  I think that's what happens.  This is a faithless lack of trusting God.  It's many more other things, but faithlessness is a start.  It might be just be putting your head in the sand.  If you find out the bad news, then it means you are responsible for that bad news.  The truth is that you are still responsible because you wouldn't even call to find out.

We had a man come to our church from an American Baptist Church.  Many of the American Baptists are liberal.  It's the right thing to call and find out what's up before someone can be considered for joining.  Why should an unscriptural church start having respect for scripture if the so-called scriptural church doesn't have respect for scripture?  Scriptural churches should handle things scripturally.

30 comments:

James Bronsveld said...

Bro. Brandenburg,

Would you apply the same principle to Roman Catholics, Anglicans, or Methodists as you would to the American Baptist? What about Muslim? Where would you draw the line there? Does a Scriptural church have a Biblical responsibility to tell an unscriptural society that someone has left and desires to join a Scriptural church? If so, what Scripture would you use to support that?

Kent Brandenburg said...

James,

Thanks. I agree. We don't call Catholics, Lutherans, places that would have no possibility of being a true church still. We've never got a visit from those. We have only met them in evangelism.

Farmer Brown said...

Kent, when you call another pastor in a church of like faith, what is the conversation? What if that church has excommunicated that member? Do you leave it there?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Farmer Brown,

"Hi, this is Kent Brandenburg, and I'm calling to let you know that so-and-so is coming to our church and has kept coming and seems to be interested in becoming a part of our church. Before we ever got serious about that, I wanted to give you a call. I've heard that he and his family were part of your church. I'm calling to ask you if there is anything that I should know, whether he or they are under church discipline."

From the other end, I've never had someone tell me the person or family shouldn't be a member of our church. We have had very few transfers. Most people in our church were baptized into our church. It's very rare that someone has come from another church, partly because of the area we live in. I'm guessing there is a lot more of this, church hopping, etc. at other churches. We don't get those kind of people.

Farmer Brown said...

I am curious about the depth of these discussions. Mostly, when people have come to us from other churches we knew to be solid, they have been turned away after a brief discussion with the pastor. There has never been a great reason, usually some conflict or rebellion.

On the other hand, when members excommunicated from us have gone elsewhere, and we have contacted the pastor, some have wanted to re-adjudicate the entire event. Unless they are completely informed, they will not accept our church's verdict.

If we put them out, any church of like faith should be willing to accept that. We should not need to get into the nitty-gritty of the situation with another church. Is it appropriate for a pastor to ask for all the details so he can judge the situation for himself?

If a body has judged, can another body step in as an appellate court? How far can you go without being a busybody in other men's matters (1 Peter 4:15)?

Daniel Holmes said...

It is a very rare occasion when someone leaves a church for scriptural reasons. We must always keep this in mind.

Those who have been baptized into a certain body need to be faithful members of that body. I really cannot think of many scriptural reasons for changing your church membership. If you move because of a job, is that God moving you, or the pursuit of money that moves you? I think it has more to do with a better life situation than a legitimate scriptural reason.

The only time that people have left our church scripturally is when a girl has married a member of a different church or we have sent a missionary out to the foreign field (still a member of our church, just not physically present).

The many times that people have left our church unscripturally is when they were offended at what was being preached and/or the positions of our church.

Anonymous said...

Bro. Daniel,

Assuming your church is scriptural in doctrine and practice, yes, I suppose it would be a rare occasion that somebody would leave for scriptural reasons. But, do you realize how many churches (even independent Baptist) that are decidedly unscriptural in doctrine and practice? Do you believe it is scriptural for a member of such a "church" to remain "faithful members of that body"? Or do you believe it would be scriptural for member of a church that teaches and practices falsely to leave that church to be a faithful member of a body that teaches and practices according to the Bible?

Mat Dvorachek

David Barnhart said...

Daniel,

What about when you join a church, believing it to be scriptural, and then over time, the pastor changes some of his positions in a way you believe to be less scriptural, or even unscriptural, and the pastor fails to persuade you to change in the way he has?

As an example, let's say you believe that only translations from the traditional texts are to be used as scripture. When you joined the church, this was also the official position of the church. If the pastor then changes to using critical text translations, and cannot convince you to change also, would you consider it a scriptural reason to leave that church?

If you do leave and go to a new church that is more in line with your beliefs, and the pastor contacts your old pastor, how seriously should he take a report that you are rebellious and not submitting to the teaching of the former church? If the former church disciplined you out (either before or after you officially left the former church), should that discipline be respected by churches you are attempting to join?

I agree with Pastor Brandenburg that churches should contact a former church about members that are leaving that church and wanting to join the new church. Our church certainly does this. However, it's not always obvious how to deal with a situation like the one I postulate above, since there may be differences between the churches/pastors over whether such differences in beliefs constitute a scriptural reason to leave. Not all negative reports from the former pastor are necessarily reason to disallow membership in the new church.

Daniel Holmes said...

To Mat Dvorachek:

Thanks for the question. I am certainly not an expert in church polity. I am very thankful for the sound, hands-on church training that my pastor gave me. I have not lived my life in a bubble either. Just a year and a half ago my family and I had ended a stretch of time when we visited over 200 different independent Baptist churches throughout the States. I am aware that there are churches, many churches who "teach and practice falsely" as you say. Of course, if someone is in that kind of situation and they find a scriptural church, then they should become a member of that one. But if they are coming from a church with unscriptural doctrine and practice, then they wouldn't be joining the scriptural church by letter, but by baptism. You an I are in agreement that a Christian should not be joined to an unscriptural church.

Let me also say that we had a family join our church recently that came by letter from another sound church. They moved to our area because of a job (again, I am not convinced that this is a scriptural reason). However, our situation is that there is a brother and his family who have moved to our city who have sound testimonies of salvation, they come highly recommended by the pastor of their church, they need to be joined to a local assembly, of course we accepted their letter! That being said, almost all of our membership comes/came through evangelism and baptism.

To David Barnhart:

Of course if your pastor changes to critical text translations, this is a valid reason to leave a church. Not being a pastor myself, I don't feel qualified to field your questions in the 3rd paragraph. You ask a hypothetical question about a situation that I believe someone would very rarely encounter. I would be curious to see how seasoned pastors would answer this question.

In my limited experience I would just have to say that this is a situation that you would have to meet prayerfully. I would generally believe the pastor of a church over an estranged member (especially if that member was under church discipline). I would do my research on the church to find if the accusations against the church were true. Immediately call the pastor to try to speak to him about the position of the church and the situation with their estranged member (keeping in mind that there is probably bitterness or hurt feelings on both sides). This is not a simple "yes" or "no", cut and dry question.

Please don't mistake my previous comment as me saying that there is never a good reason to leave a church. I was stating that it is a very rare occasion when someone leaves a church for scriptural reasons. I am sure that pastors here can attest to this fact. I have seen this very thing play out in our church first-hand.

God's will for each believer is to be a faithful member of one of His churches, not a church hopper, or church splitter, or to cut and run when things get hard, or to leave for greener pastures. We must keep in mind I Corinthians 12:18 which says, "But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him."

David Barnhart said...

Matt,

I agree that good reasons to leave a church will be presented much more rarely than bad reasons. I suppose I probably ask questions the way I do due to my background and job as programmer. I know code I write is correct when it handles the hard cases, not just the 99% of easy cases. I tend to think the same way about positions we hold based on scripture. Those positions are not tested by the obvious cases -- they are tested by the less-common, harder-to-judge cases.

I just finished a couple-year stint on the constitution committee of my church writing our new constitution. After that experience, I can say that the hard parts of a constitution are not the parts that deal with normal church life that is done properly according to the scriptures -- the hard parts are the parts that deal with when things are outside the ordinary, and among those would be people leaving the church and joining by transfer/letter, rather than by evangelism.

People coming to our church with a background in atheism or a false religion are a relatively easy case. The hard ones are people that come from a church of "mostly" like faith and practice and trying to adjudge valid reasons for leaving and transferring. We can't just make it go away by saying that scriptural reasons for leaving a church are rare -- we have to judge every case carefully.

I will say that having gone through times in my life where I have lost my job, one time when the company I worked for went under, that having to move for a job is a very real possibility, and I would have a hard time saying that most of those are unscriptural. Most job changes I have seen happen to friends and colleagues were about anything but simply more money.

David Barnhart said...

Oops,

The last post was addressed to Daniel, not Mat. Sorry about that.

Daniel Holmes said...

David Barnhart,

I took some programming classes in college. C, C++, & Java, after a couple of semesters I decided that it wasn't for me and changed my major. I have some good friends who are programmers, I just realized that I wasn't cut out for it.

Maybe what I am saying is best illustrated with a life story. I am very blessed to have been raised in a sound Christian home. This story that I am going to tell you I did not know until my pastor told me a few years ago. My father and mother did not come from Christian homes, but as young adults were saved and met in church. My father got his degree in accounting. After he received his degree he could not find a job in the field of his degree, so he started working for a restaurant chain. He worked his way to the manager position and was making good money for his age. My mother gets pregnant with me and his company decides to shut down their branches in our area and offer my father a better job position a few states away.

My young father has a pregnant wife, had a decent job that is now ending, but is offered a better job with better pay and benefits. My father declined the job promotion and started looking for another job in our city because he didn't think that it was God's will for him to leave his church. He and my mother were faithful members and my father decided to trust the Lord to give him a local job so that he could stay in his church.

The next two years were very hard for my family as my father worked temporary, low-paying jobs. My father told me that there were times where things were so tight that he fed me, then didn't know what he and my mother would eat. They never stopped tithing, they never stopped giving to missions during this time. They stayed serving faithfully in the church that God had put them in.

Then my father got a job working for an insurance company in the supply department. He worked well there and was promoted to a position in accounting. Years later he became a manager.

Then the nation-wide insurance company he worked for shut down the entire department that my father worked for in the state we are located in. Do you know what happened next? Everyone but my father lost their jobs in his department, my father was given another promotion during this time and his boss was several states away.

Now my father reports directly to the president of insurance company he works for. He has been blessed for his faithfulness. I have seen my father pour his life into faithful service in his church, and seen God take care of every need that we had. The Lord has now moved us over 6,000 miles away from our home, and we rarely see one another, but the testimony of my faithful father is one that I think of often.

This is the example that I have before me. I have seen God bless faithfulness and I have seen many people cut and run for various reasons. Maybe this helps you understand what I am trying to say and what I am trying to get across.

Larry said...

If we put them out, any church of like faith should be willing to accept that. We should not need to get into the nitty-gritty of the situation with another church. Is it appropriate for a pastor to ask for all the details so he can judge the situation for himself?

I disagree. Proverbs says he who answers a matter before he hears it participates in folly and shame (18:13). It also says that the first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him (18:17).

Essentially, you are asking an independent and autonomous body to not be independent and autonomous, but to bow to your church's judgement. I think it is a matter of church polity. I don't think "Just trust me" is good church polity. It certainly isn't baptistic. And if the disciplining church has done their homework, it wouldn't be much of an effort to talk about it succinctly and discreetly. There are churches who discipline people without merit or good cause and I think churches should not answer that matter without hearing it. And they should hear more than one side of the story.

I would not take someone from a similar church without talking to the church and without a lot of questions about why they are moving. I would contact the previous church.

If someone were under discipline that we considered valid and appropriate, I would require them to be reconciled to their former church before any steps towards membership could take place. If I considered the discipline invalid or inappropriate, I would likely communicate that to the former church.

Farmer Brown said...

Re: Larry's comment:

So in your scenario each church is in practice an appeal's court. A believer who is excommunicated could visit each church of like faith in his area until he finds a pastor who judges the body of Christ who expelled the disobedient member to have acted inappropriately.

Anonymous said...

I know this will sound like heresy, but where do we see a church giving a letter of recommendation to another church in the Bible? I see an apostle (Paul) recommending individuals to churches, but never a letter from one church to another.

I know that I disagree with most on this blog on ecclesiology, so there is going to be a lot more arguments that I could make that get off the point. I am just wondering if "joining by letter" is actually something that we can use scripture to prove?

David Barnhart said...

Farmer,

Would there be any reasonable way to stop that, though? If a person is really just wanting to "shop around" for any church that will take him, there are any number of larger, evangelical, "come-as-you-are" churches that won't even contact the prior church or ask any questions, just like those mentioned in this article.

Larry's point about the autonomy of each church under the baptistic model is well-taken. Let me put it this way -- would your church feel in any way *bound* to accept the discipline of another church? Or would you ever take a recommended member from a church with which you are in close fellowship without your own process of evaluation of that member? Or put another way, how different from your church would another church have to be before you would review, let alone discount their discipline process or circumstances of a prospective member wanting to join your church? Would you consider any church you consider to the "left" of you as being an invalid church whose discipline is therefore invalid, or is their discipline automatically valid because they are a church? (And note: I'm referring to gospel-preaching churches, not something like UMC or RC churches).

I can't speak for Larry, of course, but I would see this issue more as each independent church exercising its prerogative to administer and protect its own membership, rather than having some larger church fellowship (formal or informal) doing this for the member churches of the fellowship. As Larry said, how this is done is definitely affected by polity.

Larry said...

So in your scenario each church is in practice an appeal's court.

No. Each church is an autonomous body of Christ with the responsibility to govern itself.

Yes, a believer who is disciplined and excommunicated could visit each church until he finds such a pastor. That can happen anyway. And the whole point is that perhaps the person is not a disobedient member who acted inappropriately. It may be that the church was simply wrong.

But the main point is this: why should an independent autonomous church be bound by the decision of another church? To do so is to no longer being independent and autonomous. It is a de facto hierarchical structure with a pope or a bishop who tells other churches who they can and cannot have as members in their church. I don't find that to be a biblical polity.

Anonymous said...

I think Larry's final point shows the ramifications of the "local only" position taken to its logical conclusion: Discipline can be avoided by just going to another local church.

Those that accept that church has a universal meaning will accept the discipline from another local church because the individual is disciplined from the church.

Larry said...

Anonymous (whoever you are),

I reject the local church only position, something Kent and I have discussed before so I won't rehash that here. So your foundational presmise is negated. Discipline can't be avoided simply by going to another church. The person is still under discipline. It seems to me the "local church only" position would actually have less of a basis for another church recognizing discipline, so I think I agree with you at least that far.

Your last paragraph is the one with more problems:

1. Church discipline cannot be from "church to church" because there is no obedience to Christ's command of Matthew 18. The second church was not told the offense, did not seek reconciliation, and was not allowed to pass judgment on it.

2. You still haven't answered the issue of autonomy and independence and how your position (of an independent autonomous body being forced to accept the decision of another body) is not sort sort of popery. Your position raises an authority outside the church that is not either Jesus or the apostles. Therefore, it isn't a biblical polity.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hello Everyone,

I've appreciate your being able to have this discussion, even and especially without me in it. I'm glad for that.

Someone did bring in the local only position to take a shot at it, I guess. The person was anonymous.

Larry, however, agreed with anonymous that a local only position might result in another church not recognizing discipline. I don't understand that at all. I'm local only and all the trouble I've ever had was with non-local-only churches. It makes sense to me, except I'm going to give an explanation, not just make an unsubstantiated charge.

If people think that the true church is all believers and churches are just visible manifestation of the ideal or true, then they tend to disrespect the visible manifestation because it's not the ideal or true. I have seen this again and again and again. This is why the parachurch organization -- college, board, convention, etc. -- gains so much power. They think they are bigger than a church. I've never ever seen otherwise. Pastors themselves very often act this way too.

If a person is a member of the big one, the invisible, universal one, then the little one, the visible manifestation, can take him in based on that membership. That's why he doesn't need to call the little one. It's not worth it. He's a part of the big church, the true church, so he doesn't have to respect the little one. The little one is the lesser. The pastor is then justified in just taking someone into his church.

There is also an inherent disrespect quite often of baptism, because you get into the big one through conversion without baptism. A believer is either baptized into the little one or joins based one the acceptance of his baptism, but the big one just recognizes a profession of faith, something that is invisible.

I could keep going, but the local only position respects individual churches by nature far more than universal church people. I've seen this in real life again and again. I could write a book on it.

Farmer Brown said...

Kent, what about the question that underlined the discussion? Do you accept the excommunication of another church of like faith, and do you feel, as do Larry and David, that you have a right or even a duty to re-adjudicate the matter?

Larry said...

Kent,

To clarify, (1) I only mentioned it because someone else did; I think it is largely irrelevant to this (except see below); and (2) I am probably as local church as you are in application. I don't know what practical difference there would be between us in that.

I didn't make an argument for it because I considered it off topic. I think your reasoning is actually backward. Here is how I would briefly express it with regard to this issue.

A local church only person is not a part of a bigger body. Therefore, the local body has no obligation to another body. They can take a disciplined person just like they would any other person--on profession of faith with baptism. They have no theological reason to deny membership because they have no real connection with that other church.

An invisible church person on the other hand recognizes the larger body, that we are part of something bigger than just our local body. Therefore, we owe something to other churches, including respecting their valid discipline.

My suspicion is that that is way too nuanced for most churches. I think many in good faith are trying to help people grow and so they will take a person where they are at and try to help them. Others are looking for any warm bodied check-writers they can find.

In any event, I think the visible/invisible issue has little to nothing to do with this.

I am curious though as to your answer to the dilemma of independent autonomous bodies being required to submit to an outside authority.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Farmer Brown,

I must confess. I haven't stayed with the discussion. I'm going to answer what I believe you are asking without reading the previous discussion. Here it is.

If someone came to our church who had been disciplined from another church, and I knew that we were not in fellowship with that other church, I would call the pastor, find out the stated reason. Generally, I'm not finding that men discipline too much to ever. I get that it is one of Mark Dever's nine marks and a John MacArthur believes and preaches it, but it's still seldom practiced. It's pretty hypothetical here, because we've never had a disciplined person come to our church from another church, probably for obvious reasons.

If it would be over something that we too would separate over, it's not going to be an issue for our church. We would have to discern whether we believed the baptism was valid -- proper recipient, mode, and administrator -- and then we would accept them in based upon their testimony and baptism, not on a transfer or sending.

If it was over something else, then the person would need to go back and get it right and be sent out, which I'm guessing would be a no-go for the person usually.

Is that re-adjudicating?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Larry,

When I read what you say about the local only position, no disrespect, but it reads like you still don't understand the position. We believe there is one church with Jesus as the Head, that one church being local only. There is one church, His. We respect His church. Local only are far more respectful of other churches, because they see all the authority local only, not anything but that. I'm quite sure that is why all the trouble I've ever had comes from universal church guys, who I've noticed have no respect for churches, even if they say they do the church, the mystical big one. They could care less about our church, because an individual church is so small, so incidental. The big one is where it's all at.

What I'm describing is also why more of a hierarchical mindset is rampant there too. Big churches higher in the hierarchy having huge impact, creating the desire to be big, so you can be one of those. If you think is all local all the time, then you think all the authority of the universe is right there in that one church. You respect it. I do. I believe that is in fact the church of Jesus.

That's about it.

Larry said...

Thanks Kent.

I think I understand it. I disagree with it.

You believe there is one church with Jesus as the Head. But I think you equivocate on the meaning of "one." For the sake of discussion, let's consider your church and my church (colloquially speaking; I know it's Jesus' church). Between our two churches, which is the "one church"? Appealing to the grammar won't help here. At the end of the day, it is a matter of counting. There are still two churches where you claim only one. You have to deny the one of us is the church, not to mention all the other churches. Either my church is the "one church with Jesus as head," or your church is, or perhaps neither is and it is some other church. But "one" cannot, by definition, be more than one at the same time and in the same sense.

But to the issue of discipline, let's say my church disciplines someone for their views of the Bible that are contrary to our doctrinal statement but it is in line with your doctrinal statement. Would you honor our discipline? Or would you receive them into your church?

I do agree with the problems you speak of with the big church mindset. But I don't think that has to do with the universal or invisible church. In fact, many of those kinds of churches are very local church--their local church only. They think they have the best local church and everyone else should be there. They don't respect you or me, but that's not because of their views of the universal church but because of their views of the local church, namely, their local church. This is exactly what Andy Stanley said (and no doubt others have thought), though he later sort of apologized for it.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Larry,

When Jesus said He would build His church, that distinguished it from something else, but it was His. Jesus has His church, and I'm not going to go through the generic use of the singular noun that we went around and around on at Sharperiron back in the day. His church has pastors, deacons, the Lord's Table, the Bible, the Great Commission, discipline, authority, baptism, regenerate immersed members, etc. When Paul said to the church at Corinth, "ye are the body of Christ" (1 Cor 12:27) did that mean Paul was not in the body of Christ? "The body of Christ" is singular. There is one body, one church, in that same sense. Each church is His church. And it is always local, that is another characteristic of His church. It must be local because it is an assembly.

You probably have noticed that I don't say "local church." The reason is because every church is local. There is only a local church. By saying "local church," I would be implying there was some other church than local. There isn't. His church is local. You believe there is a universal church and a local church, so you have to differentiate the two by saying local. I don't believe there are two, so I don't have to differentiate it. If I say, "church at Corinth," do I mean there is only one church in the world? No. However, it is His church, which is singular.

When Paul wrote "the church of the living God," which includes pastor and deacons, why didn't He say "the churches of the living God (1 Tim 3:15). In 1 Tim 3:5 Paul writes, "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" A man is taking care of "the church of God." Paul speaks of the church of God as singular, the church of God. One. There is only one church of God. He is a man ruling it.

If a man approached these passages without a preconception, it would be easy to understand what I'm saying and what I believe. If he just let scripture speak, he would have a biblical ecclesiology.

Anonymous said...

This is the Anonymous from above. I post anonymously because I am a missionary going to a communist country and am keeping my identity off the internet. I greatly appreciate this blog and agree with almost everything on it.

Given Pastor Brandenburg's description of the "local only" position, I could agree with it except for one thing: the "local" church he describes is not local. The word local (as I showed from Websters in another thread) means that something is in one place. Pastor Brandenburg's "local" is not local.

Sorry for getting this thread off topic. I did not mean to disrespect Pastor Brandenburg and regret that I came off that way.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Anonymous,

An assembly is always in one place. That is what a church is, an assembly. Ekklesia, the Greek word, means "assembly." Greek speakers in Jesus' day and before would have understood that. It was never anything but an assembly. Are you saying that since there might be more than one assembly that an assembly isn't local? You need to answer the question by the way.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for raising the level of animosity so high...

Each assembly is local. That is without question (if this does not answer your question, please clarify because I do intend to answer). There is only one church and it is God's is also without question. The disagreement that we have is grammatical and semantic.

There are places in the Bible that where the word church is speaking about an individual local assembly. There are also places (like Ephesians 5) where we agree that the word church is not speaking of only one individual assembly. You still say this is "the local church" because it speaks of all local churches. I say this is "the universal church" because it speaks of churches that are in many places.

The issue of disagreement of how we define the terms "local church" and "universal church."

Kent Brandenburg said...

Anonymous,

I'm accustomed to these types of discussions, and I've found that people won't answer questions. That isn't animosity. I wanted to make that preemptive strike, because typically people don't answer questions. I haven't had a moment of animosity in this entire conversation.

Let's review what we've said. I said that a church, the church, is an assembly. That's what ekklesia, translated "church," means. You said an assembly is local. You never disagreed with the truth that assembly is local. Our conversation should be over.

Church is always an assembly. Every assembly is local, so why say "local assembly"? Every assembly is local.

You're going to have to go further by telling me what you think Ephesians 5 is teaching about the nature of the church.