Archive for the tag 'christ'

Church Membership and Excommunication

November 6th, 2011

So this scan of an excommunication letter has been making its’ way around the internet for the past few days (literally – gone viral in 24-48 hours).

What’s interesting is the responses I’ve read to it. Having been close to most of my pastors in my life, this letter isn’t a big shock to me – but apparently, even to some professing Christian folks, this letter is (supposedly) rude, shocking and unexpected.

I’ve commented a few times: the only people whining and complaining about the letter are people whose churches don’t practice church discipline and/or they haven’t read their bibles.  I have no idea on what has happened on ‘both sides’ of this particular issue, nor am I writing to address that….just to comment on the content of the letter and whether or not it is biblical or not.

It is. Plain and simple.

American individualism and charismatic spirituality have made church-hopping and a low view of church membership commonplace. Don’t like church A ? Disagree  with the pastor ?  Don’t like the music, advertising, marketing of your church and think they could do more ? Leave and find one that fits you. After all, church should affirm you and all that you believe.  The church growth movement (purpose driven church, becoming a contagious Christian, etc….) have only reinforced this mentality into the minds of the culture, even among Christians who appear to be biblically solid in every other area of their polity.

A few questions came up on one message board related to this letter.

1. Usually, when people walk away from Christianity, some people cite 1 John 2:19 and say the person was never really saved to begin with. If this person was never “saved” in the first place and has forsaken the fellowship together with other believers, how can Pastor Shade in his letter, exhort this person to “…turn away from your self-destructive path and turn back to Christ as your Lord and Savior.”

Because that’s what the Pastor’s job is – to call people to repentance (Acts 17:30-31).  The gospel is not just for the unsaved, but for believers as well and a good pastor constantly points his sheep to follow and serve Christ and turn from sin.  A question like this usually treats the gospel as a message only for believers and repentance as a one-time event.  Scripture doesn’t.

2. In your two posts (see 121 and 135) you seemed to intimate that there were three groups of people – the non-elect outside of the church, the unsaved in the church (who might or might not be elect) pretending to be saved and the elect.  Would you say this person to whom this letter is addressed to is “elect”, “almost elect” or “might be elect”? I would think that you’d say this person is definitely not elect since the elect can’t/won’t turn from fellowship with Christ.

I would say it to someone who once associated themselves with the covenant community and made vows before many witnesses and God that they would do all the things contained in the covenant. This isn’t an ‘election’ issue.  A pastor is not called to ‘preach the gospel to the elect’. Further, there is no ‘almost elect’.

As for you saying the person isn’t elect…well….they’re not dead yet, so no one can say this with certainty – hence the call to repent and the invitation and opportunity to return.  I’ll go into detail on this in another answer below.

BTW – this isn’t a ‘reformed’ issue. One of my old churches (which is dispensational and moderately Arminian) and my old pastor would’ve handled this issue the exact same way with virtually the same language. It’s a biblical issue, not a reformed issue. The problem is that the reddit reader who originally posted it don’t understand church membership or church discipline.

3. If he’s not elect, how can he be restored to Christ’s body? Are you saying that Christ has parts of his body that are NOT elect?

In the second link provided above (135) I talk a bit about what happens when a believer hears the warning passages in scripture versus an unbeliever.  An unbeliever hears the warning passages and ignores them, refuses to repent and walks further away from Christ.  A believer hears them, is convicted by the Spirit of God and turns (repents). It may not happen on the first time they hear a call to repentance or the second, but it will happen. 1 John 3:9-10 is a guarantee of this.

4. Pastor Shade said, “By this excommunication, we are declaring that you are no longer part of the company of the saved”

This would hold to what you and Ricky describe as people being a part of the “visible church” but not a part of the “invisible church”? Or do I have that backwards? But then this would again mean that this person is not “saved ” or “elect” in the first place, but only in the “company of the saved” but not “actually saved”, right?

Church has that right (Matt. 16:19, 1 Cor. 5:1-11) given by God. If they repent, great and praise God. But read closely – you are no longer part of the company of the saved (the visible church). Is it possible he’s saved and going through a period of rebellion ? Yep. But scripture only knows of Christians who are part of a visible local body.

Ever seen an arm by itself ? Ever seen a toe live on its’ own ?

So declaring dude to not be a part of the company of the saved is saying “you’re cut off from the body. There is no life outside of the body. Come back, or die.”

5. Can God’s “elect” be turned over to satan for their destruction? I think your answer would be a definite “no” on that one, but I just want to be sure…

That’s what excommunication is. Why would my answer be a no when that’s the very language used in 1 Cor. 5 to describe the man who was kicked out ? The good thing is that in 2 Cor., we find that he has repented and been restored to the body.

To be more specific, excommunication is both an act of love and of discipline – love for the body to keep them from the leaven of professing brothers and sisters who continue to sin openly (1 Cor. 5). A little leaven, leavens the whole lump.  Being placed outside of the covenant community, outside of the fellowship and accountability of the saints, it is hopeful that the person excommunicated will, like the prodigal son, find himself eating with the pigs and come to his senses and turn.

All that said, the tone and the content of the letter is both serious and loving. It amazes me (okay, it really doesn’t) that folks are up in arms over the fact that:

1. Dude has been repeatedly called and asked to return to fellowship – both in letter and in word (personally).  He has ignored these repeated calls to repent.

2. The session (not the individual pastor) made the decision, not the senior pastor.  For the non-reformed – scripture does NOT teach that ONE pastor/elder/bishop is to rule over a church and everyone falls under him. What scripture DOES teach is multiple elders at each church, all equal in power though differing in role (teaching elders and ruling elders). So that means thatmultiple people made a decision – not one person.

3. Matthew 18 seems to have been followed according to the letter. ‘Let him be as a heathen and a tax collector’ means that you do not treat him as a part of the covenant community.  You pursue him to repent and turn from sin, but you no longer consider or treat him as a Christian.  Look at the passage carefully:

Matthew 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Remember the context – a Jew would understand that a Gentile and a tax collector were NOT to be treated as the people of God. Gentiles were outside of the covenant made by God with His people and tax collectors were people who were considered traitors (specifically if they were Jewish tax collectors – robbing their own people to pay the pagans and make themselves rich).  In that aspect, an excommunication ruling (specifically in this case as laid out in the letter) indeed does say ‘based on your actions, we are declaring you not to be a Christian’.  What that entails is not a wish for the man to go to hell.  Rather, there is an open door and opportunity to repent – an encouragement even.

Only American individualism and biblical ignorance can find problems with this letter.  Of course, if someone has a case (a biblical case) against the content of the letter, I am more than willing to both listen and if necessary, retract everything posted here.  Otherwise, this stands.

Pray for the elders at CRC, as I’m betting pastor Shade’s e-mail has been overrun with folks blasting him and their church over the letter.  American Christianity is way overdue for a biblical primer on biblical church discipline. The fact that so many churches have so many morally failing pastors is due in part to the fact that church discipline is not practiced (under the guise of ‘grace’).  This lack of holiness is part and parcel of why the church looks more and more like the world in the US – self-absorbed (and catered to by the Osteens of the church world), self-concerned (and catered to by the Rick Warrens’ of the church world) with little concern for anything else other than making a better ‘me’ and living in ‘prosperity’ (catered to by the Jakes, Myers, Copelands and Hinn’s of the church circuit).

Harold Camping Repents…it seems.

November 3rd, 2011

Harold Camping – one stroke, two bad teachings and three failed prophecies later, has apologized for his rapture predictions.– shortcut to the article on the Christian Post. I also did a quick video on the topic:

So yeah.  I hope to see him come forward and disavow more stuff.

But part of me is still carefully reading that….is it just me or does it seem like he’s left some ‘open forum’ to come back with another prediction later ?

Pray his repentance is genuine and that more good fruit will follow from it (more repentance).


Review: Evangel – Elation Foundation

June 30th, 2010

Christian hip hop (CHH) is not monolithic. Anyone seeking to understand exactly what kind of artists are in the genre need look no further than the CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) industry to understand it. Their theological underpinnings come out in the music they make. Shallow theology and shallow theological commitments produce shallow music. There are people in CHH who are simply doing ‘inspirational’ music and write about life, ‘practical issues’ and how Jesus makes it better. There are people who write songs which aren’t overtly secular (some are) nor overtly ‘churchy’ so they can get appeal to a wider audience. Finally, there are people who write songs that are overtly Christian and very theological.

Evangel falls into the third category. His music is anything but shallow. Hailing from Maryland via NYC, and a member of the group ChristCentric, he’s no stranger to the Christian Hip Hop community. The group put out several solid projects over the past decade -The Mind of Christ (2001), Reformation (2003), City of God (2006), Didactic Music Vol. 1 (2009) as well as his first solo project, Expository Journey (2008).Those not familiar with him already should also look up his guest spots on Timothy Brindle’s album Killing Sin album, shai linne’s Solus Christus Project, Voice’s Not Guilty: The Process of the Pardon and The Crucible and the newly-released Lampmode Project The Church: Called and Collected. His first album, Expository Journey, served as a bit of a “Pilgrims’ Progress”, detailing the process of God calling, convicting, regenerating and saving him along the course of the album. It’s more than ‘good listening’ and I highly recommend picking it up (I probably need to do a ‘back review’ on that one).

Thematically, Elation is probably the best ‘concept’ album I’ve heard because the topic is very narrowly focused (Matthew 5:3-16). Any believer serious about the message of the beatitudes will enjoy this album and feel as thought they are being led through a systematic bible study on the topic. Every song serves as an exposition of each portion of the passage until the listener comes away not only entertained, but more importantly edified.

Musically, the project is solid and some tracks will definitely be played and replayed and replayed. The production has a distinctive east coast flavor with a
lot of ‘old school’isms, which I love. It took a few tracks a bit of time to grow on me (mainly because of the hooks), others will grab you the first time
you listen to the CD and stick with you for hours after you’ve hit the ‘stop’ button on your CD player or MP3 player.

Pound for pound, Evangel remains (as shai linne has called him) “the tightest emcee you never heard of”. Clever punchlines, ridiculously complex lyricism and insane rhyme-schemes all make this album beyond ‘worth picking up’. I believe this one could easily become a ‘silent classic’, gradually working its’ way into people’s listening rotation over time and being something that people listen to repeatedly without even realizing it. A word of caution: if you’re looking for something to treat like a secular CD and constantly ‘bump’, you might be disappointed. For the brothers of Christcentric, their albums are deliberately intended to be didactic – teach and entertain at the same time. While artistry and musicality are important, their primary focus has always been content over entertainment. As such, when serious material comes up, the tone of tracks tend to reflect the nature of the topic being discussed.

The title track, Elation Foundation, serves as the intro the album. It comes at you out of left field (up tempo and you are probably NOT expecting it) and leaves you wondering what to expect until Evangel drops the first few bars. It serves as an intro not just to album, but also illustrates the state of a newly converted believer. God begins the work of sanctification in a person who has walked in darkness for so long that it takes their eyes a bit of time to adjust to the light of Christian living. A visual representation of this is described in the song as a man getting on an elevator in the basement and gradually being elevated to different floors in the building (each represented by a different track). Skit #1, Mr. Smiley Face featuring “The Elevator Man” (more on him and the skits later) serves as an explanation of the album in a humorous fashion.

Bankruptcy Department begins the trek into the album with Michael Armstrong on lead vocals for the hook. The track musically is what you’d expect for a song designed to provoke mental images of sorrow for one’s sin, mirroring the first beatitude “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). I love Savings and Moans. The hook is memorable, biblical and does exactly what Evangel intended – teaches the text of scripture and gets it ‘stuck’  inside of your head for the purpose of further meditation long after you’ve stopped listening. Soul Beneficiary Division is a straight boom-boom-bap track. It serves as a call for believers to both believe the words of Jesus and to walk in humility in light of it (Matthew 5:5).

Mercy Mutual is another of my favorite tracks on the album. Building on “Blessed are merciful, for they will receive mercy”, Evangel goes straight to the text of scripture and draws from the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35) and presents it in lyrical form along with the implications of it in verse 3 of the song, even relating the last bar back to the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6. One of the standout tracks on the album, though the production could have used some more layering. Food Court was one of those tracks where the hook took a while to grow on me. Other than that, there’s nothing wrong with this track. In contradiction to my expectations, the crowd at the release party was very into the song and hollered the chorus very effusively. Evangel engages in crazy wordplay here and the result is a song that any believer who hungers after righteousness and daily fights against their sin can use for meditation.

Jewel graces Pure in Heart with her angelic vocals. Yes, all of those voices are hers (come on folks – anyone who’s seen Ray or has listened to ANY song by Michael Jackson from Off the Wall forward knows you can layer and multi-track your own voice). From a musicians’ standpoint, this is the best that I’ve heard her and the arrangement of her voice on the this track is perfect. Another of the stand-out tracks on the album both for content and production.

Rejoice is another one of Evangel’s outstanding tracks on this album because of the content. He shows out with different rhyme-scheme patterns in this one and does so effortlessly. Shalom Factory has a tight beat, great lyricism….but I didn’t care too much for the hook. It sounds a bit ‘mechanical’ (straight on the beat) and a better choice of words could’ve been put together for it. Even with that, it still grows on you after a few listens. Maybe apologist will do a remix with the same beat, different background and a better hook. Maybe. Other than that, I’m being hit with a straight east coast, golden age of hip hop feel with this track…and I’m loving it.

HR department is on the album at a great place. Good beat, good lyricism, good hook and it picks up well from where Shalom Factory left off. The rest of Christcentric joins him on this song, with Israel Felix on verse 2 and Apologist with verse 3. Israel has always been beastly as a lyricist and does not disappoint on this track. Honestly, I think this is one of the best verses I’ve ever heard from him (and I’ve yet to hear a wack verse from him). Apologist gives us a Christian history lesson, pointing us back to other saints who’ve endured suffering and persecution over the centuries without turning from the faith as examples to us to keep pressing toward the kingdom. His verse serves as a good reminder of why all believers need to be familiar with church history in the first place.  Musically, this sounds like a ‘classic’ Christcentric track (anyone familiar with their discography knows what I mean by this).

Hilltop Housing slows the pace of the album back down as Evangel gets serious with a call for the church to be holy in its’ worship and it’s lifestyle – as individuals and collectively. Nothing is off limits – homosexual choir leaders, pastors conferences being the highest rated in pornography, excommunication and restoration for repentant saints and working for our employers as we would if Christ was our employer. I’ll definitely say that is one of the most powerful tracks on the album and really ‘sits with you’ if you take the time to consider exactly what’s being said.

The skits (Mr. Smiley Face, Still the Elevator Man and Elation Summation) show up at the right times throughout the album, prepping us for the next section of the album as we go. Brother Redeemed (Derek Pulliam) is known for normally being a serious dude (listen to his tone on Elation Summation or the clips of him on Bmorr’s “Wake Up” off of his Self-Denial album). You see a completely different and hilarious side of him as “The Elevator Guy” on this album, and it helps to provide the listener with some needed ‘breaks’ in the topic, lest you end up feeling melancholy for the entire thing.

I’m sorry, I missed a track, didn’t I ? Every good hip hop CD needs a cypha.

Quincy ‘Q-DOG’ Jones makes a return to Christcentric with a hot opening verse to Immigration Services. I don’t know about you, but I miss hearing this brothers’ voice spittin’ verses. Israel and Apologist follow close behind. Ackdavis, Azriel and New Jeruse hit the next three verses with 16 ill bars a piece, followed by up and coming emcees C-LOS and B-doe. B-doe not only has a project coming out (Please Listen, release date TBA), but he’s also grabbed a few guest spots on B-morr’s albums as well as on the Plumbline Collective’s Semper Reformanda Vol. 1. Now THAT is a line up.

Oh yeah, Evangel spits a verse on here too. And it’s 32 bars. And it’s SICK.

That pretty much summarizes my trek through the project after a few dozen listens. I’d caution folks not to simply toss it aside based off of superficial reviews. The words of John Owen (paraphrased) come to mind when I think of this project – if you come in looking mainly or only for entertainment, you might as well leave after the first track. This one’s designed to edify and build up and long after the music stops, you’ll be left considering each track and driven back to scripture to meditate on these great truths.

Production – 3/5

Lyricism, Artistry and Wordplay – 4/5

Concept Cohesiveness – 5/5

Content – 5/5

Total: 8.5/10