Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What Church Isn't Bible-based?

The common refrain is that "our church is 'Bible-based'." So, what exactly does that mean?

All right, (quick caveat) a moment of confession for me: I fear being labeled. Honestly, I have put off writing posts like these because I don't want to be thought of as confrontational or anti-institutional just for the sake of being those things. It is too easy to dismiss someone merely by throwing a negative label on them. To clarify, I don't mind being confrontational or anti-institutional if it can be done in the spirit of Christ and serve a greater purpose. At least, ideally that would be true of me. But it’s just that I have a genuine concern about being dismissed as crazy or ridiculous, or worse, unChristian or unspiritual, by some. That anxiety is no good reason to make decisions, so here goes...

So, with that disclaimer in place, I feel like I am in a place where it is necessary to question the long-held, popular, and usually subjective claim about "Bible-based" churches. And for my own conscience, let me reiterate strongly that I have no agenda here other than to drive us ALL back into the Scriptures a little bit more and a little bit deeper. In fact, my reason for bringing this up is because I actually think that far too many Christians are not taking the Bible seriously. We pull quotes out of it and use them for our own purposes, but we are gaining in our illiteracy of the God-inspired text. We need to be sure to read it for all it's worth - historically, contextually, socially, personally.

Without further adieu, here is my question: What do people (or you - the reader) mean when you say that your church is based on the BibleTo which doctrines, practices, beliefs, actions, etc. are you referring? And I'm serious, because when the dust settles, I am becoming convinced that really what most church-goers mean is that they mention Jesus and reference the Bible every now and then, and to them, that constitutes being Bible-based.

I make this argument because, truth be known, almost none of the common practices of typical American congregations today are really based on the Bible! Don't believe me? Check out these questions:

Does your church have a senior pastor? Or any paid staff for that matter?
Do you meet in a building for worship?
Does your church have a youth ministry? Children's department? Age-separated programs?
Do you take Communion with a small wafer and juice?
Is there a music minister or "worship leader" or band that performs?

I could go on and on, but the point is NOT that any of these things are necessarily wrong or evil. My point is that they are not based on any Scriptures or New Testament practices. We cannot defend any of these practices by saying, "We do _____ because it is what we see the early churches doing in the Bible." And if that is the case, then what do we really mean when we contend that our churches are Bible-based?

See, I don't think this is a pointless debate, but rather, I think this can be a fruitful conversation that takes the believing community back to explore our biblical roots. On the other side, I believe we will come out with a richer expression of our faith for this day and time, yet grounded in eternal truth.

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