Saturday, October 07, 2006

Final closing

Second section, Closing Session ...

Phillips: No one seems to continually qualify for elder.

Strauch: ... Maybe there's an extreme where no one is able to qualify. Remember we are all saved sinners, no one perfect, all in the process of sanctification. [There may be other problems in the church, such as perfectionism ... but] Remember 1 Tim 3:1, if you desire this, it is commendable; don't eliminate yourself because you are not perfect.

Phillips: [Describes church situation uninterested in the family integrated model but knowing many community families who desire such; or a church whose new pastor is hostile to their family's homeschooling] At what point do we leave the body, when there seems to be nowhere to go?

Einwechter: We are called to give all diligence to live in peace with all men. When there is godly living and solid teaching, it can be dealt with if you are allowed liberty of conscience to do so. What I'm finding out is that many families are not given that opportunity, they are seen as a threat, so in that situation, we need to ask where God is leading us. The Separatists, when they saw a need for reformation and they were rebuffed, they saw the only alternative was to start again. [Not always, but] Sometimes that is what needs to be done.

Phillips: The concept of honor and respect is important. If you need to leave, you should desire to leave with grace, assuring the elder that you are not going to be a source of trouble, but that your heart is aching to do something different. May I have your blessing to leave and seek that alternative? I think more often than not, a shepherd would prefer to shake your hand and let you go in peace.

Swanson: Whatever you do, you want to live in peace, which is a good thing, but it depends on whether you handle disagreements properly or not. If you are an elder, you have more opportunity to influence elders over time. The larger issue that we miss, we are not about obliterating Sunday Schools, but about returning to relationships, and the modern world is not set up for that. Instead of youth groups and other things, begin to build relationships through hospitality. In many cases, they may never notice if you leave, if the church is that shallow. But try and leave in peace.

Phillips: What do you do with an elder who treats his family unlovingly?

Strauch: It comes back to accountability. If the elders do not confront one another, they lose credibility. The eldership is about confronting; when there has been a family problem with an elder, we ask them why not step aside and deal with it.

Confrontation and dealing with problems right away is the only way. Remember that it the natural tendency with males is not to confront -- [Even President Reagan had this flaw] -- but you need to deal with it.

Phillips: Is there anything you'd like to share for the good of the order?

Botkin: From what I've heard, there has been a very balanced and thorough covering of the things you came to hear. There is probably very good practical information on the CDs ... but I believe the speakers and topics have covered most of the needs of the hour. I think it's a treasure of information that will help us in this transition period. ... We've been talking about Jonathan Edwards, and he said, "I have seen the happy effects of dealing with the souls of the people and the children". That's what we are about. There was a time of tremendous apostasy, just as we are facing now ... [quoted an introduction written for one of Edwards' books about the doleful state of the church before Edwards].

Einwechter: It's been a deeply gratifying experience for me. What has struck me is that reformation takes courageous men and women, and I've had conversation with such. [Relating how one man told him he had to leave a job and face the rejection of his father the past two years], we are talking about courageous men but we have to remember the courageous women, too. [Einwechter had to resign a pastorate over a confessional issue while his wife was expecting] It is the courage of godly women which enables us men to stand. [applause]

Hart: Number one, purpose to understand jurisdiction. We need to ask not just what God said is to be done, but also who is to do it. It is critical, and central to the heart of what we need to get on track today. Who has been told to do what God has said to be done? We must understand proper jurisdiction. I'd also like to build on what Bill just said; if we are to be part of healthy churches, bodies, families, we as a people have to understand honor, loyalty, friendship, and love to one another. We had better embrace maturity ... and purpose ahead of time what kind of churchmen, elders, friends, husbands, wives, and children we'll be.

Strauch: Jerome tells a legend that the Apostle John could no longer speak, but just repeat "Love one another". His disciples asked why, and he said, "Because if you love one another, you will solve many problems."

Swanson: Jesus really loves His bride. At Nancy's wedding last week, what would Chris's response have been if a ruffian of the neighborhood had come in and ripped up her veil, then attacker her with a 2x4. The bride of Christ has been trashed; we have adopted a man-center ethic that has systematically ripped apart the bride of Christ. That's why this is important; we have to love the bride ...

Phillips: Something that has been a tremendous blessing in our congregation has been a revamping and new approach to membership training. We have found 75% of the problems are eliminated by proper, pre-memberhsip training. When someone joins our body, they become a member of our family. We explain to them, you have to affirm before the body the duty of the people in the local church and sign a statement. [During that time], we go through our expectations of you, and your expectations of us; here's how you leave, so you know now ... if you join here, you need to understand we are not going to release you into nothingness. Here are our priorities, our approach to preaching, the procedures to hold me [the elder] accountable. We ask if you have any problems or issues with members of this congregation that are outstanding and unresolved; you must resolve them before you join, and if you can't we need to know so we can deal with it. Are there things about doctrine or practice that bug you? Let's put everything on the table right now.

People who are schismatics don't join. People who don't want to say to your face that they don't like your doctrine don't want to stay. It forces men to be reponsible and open, and to face expectations in advance.

[When you join a church] you are joining a body ... you should take steps to be a peacemaker.

If you like the work [of the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches], I would formally ask that you pray for us ... as a missions outreach to the churches of America. ... that God will help, protect, guide, chasten us ... I am soliciting your help for that.

Brown: I was very affected by the questions we received because most of them had to do with different challenges to love in the church. It is always challenged because "the greatest of these are love" ... so this is our challenge, particularly critical in the church. How many of you are not in churches now which are not consistently in tune with these principles [about a third of the audience raises their hands]. My most prominent thought right now is the preservation of love between brothers in the church, and how that's accomplished in transition times.

[Tells story of a pastor calling about his struggles] This man never once made a deriding comment toward the deacons, people, or philosophy of his church; he was grieved at the thought he might have to separate. Instead of coming in and trying to rip the church apart with these different philosphies, he went to his deacons and resigned. He told them he loved them and expressed the love of Christ to them; he understood that God is sovereign over all things.

I want to see more ... [guys like him] among us. At the same time, there are hills to die on. You know, there are some unintended consequences to ideas, like I was talking about Gideon this weekend ... When you tear down your father's idols -- and there are idols associated with the principles we're discussing here -- often there is a backlash, and the backlash challenges love. In times like these we need to listen so carefully to the Apostle Paul in Phillipians 1:27, "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." Let's exalt the gospel in all that we do and say. It has a way of destroying all pride in a person. Anyone who understands the gospel knows how bankrupt we are before God; and in the midst of our bankruptcy, that we would continue to ask Him for understanding how to destroy the idols in our heart and land, but in the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Doug Phillips closes the meeting with "a vision of hope", lavishly illustrated with the wedding of Peter and Kelly Bradrick -- almost as powerful in retrospect as it was to witness.

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