Friday, February 25, 2005

A quick thought

The Bible condemns drunkenness.
Wine is the source of drunkenness.
Therefore wine is forbidden.

The Bible condemns gluttony.
Food is the source of gluttony.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

College Fellowship Groups and the Church

For many who are close to my age, a significant aspect of their Christian discipleship comes from groups such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship or Campus Crusade for Christ. The obvious good that these and similar organizations offer, the encouragement and fellowship of Christians gathered for singing, Bible study and prayer are irreproachable. Much good has been done for Christ's church because of these groups.
However, some of the attitudes of IV participants (I will focus on IV, since I am most familiar with it, and it seems to be the most prominent fellowship group) towards the church leaves much to be desired- particularly their practical low evaluation of the central ministry of the church. The reason the church must have priority over any other parachruch organization is the simple fact that it is the church. Christ has commissioned the church and its officers to authoritatively proclaim the Word and make disciples. The church has been granted the solemn privilidge under Christ to discipline those who are unfaithful in doctrine or in life. The church has been privalidged with the task or proclaiming the gospel to the nations. It is the church, and only the church that can carry on these and similar tasks with direct Divine commission. This does not mean that other organizations cannot participate in a secondary role; but it does mean that any parachruch organizations must make explicit and unmistakable clear the centrality of the church.
There are also practical reasons why the church as an organizations has more to offer. First, generally a church will have a broader age-range- allowing one to see a perspective bigger than that of a mass of late adolescents. What a wonderful demonstration of the grace of God as the youngest and the oldest gather for worship and fellowship. Second, with age comes wisdom. The church offers not just age diversity, but also of life-experience and the insight which that offers. The younger one is (and I say this as one who is young) the less practical experience one has had or the more myopic one's concerns tend to be. Third, a good church will be pastored and ruled by well-qualified, knowledgeable men- those with greater qualifications and education that typically possessed by the IV staff worker. The Presbyterian tradition is particularly helpful, not only in the rule by a gifted pastor, but also a plurality of gifted elders- not just locally, but regionally and nationally. Fourth, one of the marks of a good church is the discipline it is authorized to exercise when faced with false or dangerous teaching. With the plethora of false doctrines floating around today, from dispensationalism to openness theology- the ability to mark and excise false teachers is vital. Opennism in particular has found inroads into some chapters of IV, and dispensationalism is all to rampant in the American evangelical stream.
What practically should be done in IV and other groups to demonstrate that is the servant of the church and not a usurper. First, not only in institutional statements, but also constantly in practice, the preeminence of the church must be maintained. The necessity of corporate, formal worship must be stressed- and even required. No college fellowship group must ever allow itself to become a replacement for the church. Further, more than an external compliance must be necessary. No one should be given laxity to say "I go to church on Sunday, but IV is my real Christian fellowship. Second, IV must seek to practically offer support to the church. Never should any IV activity interfere with a church's corporate worship services- either morning or evening. Participants should be encouraged to become active and involved within the church- and not simply Sunday attendees, but active members.