[forthright] Transforming Churches

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Thu, 06 Mar 2008 15:35:52 -0600
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

COLUMN: Hands-on Faith

Transforming Churches
by Barry Newton

 From fiction to the church, history exudes
examples of those who have sought to impose their
own will by transforming what exists into how
their own imagination thought it should be. In
Mark Twain's "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg,"
a mysterious stranger became consumed with
discovering a perfect scheme for reshaping
Hadleyburg's reputation, that it might fall into
the mire of disgrace. Through guile, he infected
their pillars of society with a successful
cancerous plot.

In a galaxy far away, Trekies will remember how
Captain Kirk's son in "The Wrath of Khan"
succumbed to pride and the allure of power by
cutting corners to create the first device which
when fired deep into a planet would be capable of
transforming it into a paradise. Although his goal
appeared noble, the ultimate result was

Fed up with church wars and judgmental
hairsplitting not befitting the name Christian nor
biblical in scope, some appear to have concocted a
protein which when injected into the deepest
levels of Christian DNA would transform the
church. This powerful mutating genetic sequence is
a-n-e-w-g-r-a-c-e. The goal to halt countless
church splits over non-biblical matters is noble.
However the short-cut method of redefining grace
unbiblically leads to disastrous results.

Although the Bible never suggests that grace means
we have been released from pursuing God's
guidance, a Christianity cultivated in a democracy
petri dish exalting individualism has readily
spliced a-n-e-w-g-r-a-c-e into how it thinks. When
a congregation's practice conflicts with biblical
teaching, well-intentioned leaders can now feel
biblically justified by simply counseling, "Grace
covers it." Wherever this unwarranted definition
penetrates how churches think, callousness to the
scriptural message ensues.

A biblical veneer for this grace mutation comes
from "there is no condemnation for those who are
in Christ Jesus." Although the context of this
phrase reveals Paul proclaimed the wonderful news
that Christians have been forgiven, the genetic
spin doctors have re-engineered this to mean you
will not be condemned for failing to obey any of
scripture's prescribed teachings. Confusing
forgiveness for past mistakes as a license for
future behavior conveniently obfuscates the
necessary impact of the cross upon the disciple's
life. Cross-bearing entails saying to God along
with Christ, "Not my will, but yours be done."

In contradistinction to the way of the cross, a-n-
e-w-g-r-a-c-e empowers a congregation to shape
itself and its service according to whatever whims
its will can pragmatically tolerate. As to what
scripture describes how the body of Christ is to
be, God's servants are to seek to conform to God's
revealed will, not reshape it into their own
fallen image.

1/ Romans 8:1

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