[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #14 ---- 4/12/98

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From: Glen Stewart <root@...>
Date: Mon, 13 Apr 1998 21:35:26 -0400
>From: lifeunlimited@... (Robert A Tolliver)

Standing Shoulder To Shoulder in the Trenches,
Encouraging One Another as we "Fight the Good Fight"

Title:  #14:  Seven Strangle holds On The Church (Part 5)
1.  Institutionalization of the Church.
2.  Intellectualization of Scripture.
3.  Creedalization of our Doctrine.
5.  Rationalization of the Supernatural.
6.  Compartmentalization of God's Activity..
7.  Minimization of Holiness and Obedience.

Dear Fellow Laborer:

This letter will be longer than planned, because, not only do I want to
share the main thought of this series of letters, but also try to give you
a taste of life and Easter from a different perspective.  I am writing this
letter on Easter Sunday night from Bogota, Colombia, South America, where
our oldest daughter and her family serve as missionaries.   This city of
six million inhabitants sprawls at 8,500 feet altitude  through the
valleys, plateaus, and foothills of mountain ranges boasting of peaks as
high as 12,000 feet.  

In some places it is one of the dirtiest cities I have ever been in. 
Others are beautiful and neat.  Most buildings share common walls between
them, so the only yard space usually consists of small plots about 10'X20',
usually immaculately groomed with beautiful green grass and a variety of
shrubs and flowers too numerous to identify.

Traffic is indescribable.  Horns and brakes wear out first ---- then tires,
shocks, and springs.  Sprawling mile after mile in every direction, there
are few thoroughfares where you can travel faster than 35 mph ---- legally,
at least.

Botoga itself is not in particular danger from guerilla troops, or, in
spite of the enormous drug cartel's influence with pesos, businesses, and
property ownerships, from drug wars and fightings.  However, everywhere you
go you see security gates and bars on nearly every building..  As I sit
here writing, little Christopher is outside in the "garage" vigorously
shaking one of the two large sets of heavy iron gates used to keep them
safe from unwelcomed visitors. 

 Each gate boasts of at least three types of locks that must be locked or
unlocked everytime the kids come or go from the house.  Every house we have
seen has such security ---- bars on all windows, locks on every door and
gate, and, in some cases, electrical security systems as back up.

One thing is certain, however, ---- you dare not venture out into the
countryside.  The mountains just 20 or 30 miles out of the city are surely
"off limits", especially to "Americano's", who make excellent poker chips
for the drug czars and guerilla commanders to use in financing their

So ---- allow me to declare from one of the ten most dangerous cities in
the world, ---- CHRIST AROSE!  



After arriving last Wednesday, we enjoyed fellowshiping with and
ministering Thursday in a new and very small Spanish speaking church in the
city of Chia, about 45 minutes drive from where Kevin, Cindy, and
Christopher live.  This new church meets in the garage located on the front
of a house situated on a small street bustling with cars, bicycles, and
pedestrians.  Conducted as part of the "Holy Week" activities, the service
began at 4:00 p.m. and lasted until about 6:15.

Our hearts immediately were knit to these wonderful people of diverse
shades of brown, black, and red.  You could readily see the influence of
Spain, Africa, and the native Kuna and Auca Indian tribes.  Their faces
displayed some of the most beautiful and flawless features I have ever
seen.  My "grandfather heart" was totally smitten by a little
three-year-old named "Jennifer Pa-ula".

Easter Sunday we attended a large church that runs about 8,500 in three
services.   We arrived after the early service and were immediately
confronted with a two-block-long traffic jam as some were leaving and
others arriving.  

When we entered the building the first thing that caught my attention was
the size of the auditorium.  On the wall behind the stage area was a
beautiful mural probably 200 feet wide of the great mountain ranges outside
Bogota.  In the center was extraordinary native stone work blending into
the mural with a lovely cascading waterfall and tropical plants.  Peeking
out from behind that special mountain peak was the sun giving blazing
shades of yellows, lavenders, reds, and orange to a morning sunrise.

On each side of the stone work was a long banner hanging vertically about
20 feet in length.  On the left it said, "Rey de Reyes!"  On the right it
said "Senor de Senores!" ---- King of Kings!  Lord of Lords!  It was an
extraordinary moment to join together with people of other tongues, color,
and culture, yet all from the same big family of God, and declare "He is
Risen, Indeed ---- As He Said!"


Easter can be a real mix for those of us in ministry.  One the one hand,
you have the joy of celebrating Resurrection Sunday, with all the emotional
and spiritual electricity that surrounds it; but on the other,  you also
have the sadness of knowing that some who were with you yesterday will
probably not be in church again until Christmas or even next Easter.  (Some
might even show up for Mothers' Day or Thanksgiving, too.)

During my pastoral years I went through all that, along with dealing with
irritation and frustration over such thinking.  Then I would face the
depression and let down that followed such a supercharged day.

If you are experiencing that let down today, remember that Sunday's are
really the Lord's Day, not ours ---- and we celebrate Him, not others. Even
on Resurrection Sunday that is still the case.  So ---- dear friend ----
don't let the enemy steal your joy out of one of the most memorable
celebrations in the Christian's calendar ---- the day Jesus demonstrated
that He had conquered Sin, Death, the Flesh, the Law, the World, Hell, and
the Grave!  

Hallelujah!  Christ Arose!


I received numerous notes concerning last week's letter. The following is
an example, particularly concerning the issue of "hyper fundamentalism" of
which I spoke.  The writer is a personal friend to Jo Ann and me.

   "I cannot begin to tell you what bondage we were in for 8 years!  I came
home from church questioning my salvation almost every week and I felt I
had to do all that was expected of me or I was not saved or at least ----
unworthy!    We did what we could to fit in ---- I wore dresses ALL the
time, we threw away alot of our accompaniment tracks convinced they were of
Satan, we burned many record albums, etc.....We missed out on 8 years of
blessing and possible ministry . . .

   "Judgementalism and legalism are from the pit of hell, and only serve to
keep us all in bondage.  You are so right about all you said.  We need to
look at everyone with the eyes of Christ and love them as He would love
them.  We can't have an effective ministry unless we can do those 2


My heart goes out to people who have been caught in a religious sytem that
steals their joy and replaces it with intimidation, that perverts freedom
in Christ into legalistic performance, and that takes the message of grace
and preaches it in such a way that it creates emotional imprisonment.


Because I wanted to take extra space to share the above with you, and
because I feel the Lord  has some important thoughts for someone, I am
again going to cover only one of the Seven Strangle Holds On The Servant of
God today, and then plan to conclude the series next week by covering the
final three.

Our fourth Strangle hold on the Servants of God is . . . 


I wish there was an easy answer to just where the line is drawn between the
legitimate use of contemporary tools and approaches to ministry, and to so
culturalizing our approaches that they not only hint of, but loudly shout
of worldliness.

We have so many different types of church models today ---- the
traditional, the more spontaneous, the liturgical, the "seeker" church, the
"user friendly" church, etc.  And, each of them uses formats, tools, and
approaches that they feel best fit their particular style of church.

However, the Way we use these tools, formats, and approaches is not the
real issue.  Again, it is our heart attitude that is the real issue.  It
isn't so much "What" and "How" we do it, but rather ---- "Why".   What is
our real ---- deep down inside where nobody knows but God ---- inner

In addressing this issue, I want to address three questions and then
suggest a set of plumblines that can help us discern whether or not some of
the things we are doing is more cultural than Biblical.  They are as
1)  What does Culturalization do to our churches?
2)  What is at the Heart of Culturalization?
3)  What are some examples of having Culturalized our approaches?
4)  Three Plumblines to Help us Discern and Avoid Culturalization.

ALL it does, but here are some things of which I am convinced:

   A.  It dulls us to the horridness of worldlimindedness and sin ---- we
progressively think more lightly about the influence culture has on us,
rather than concentrating on how we can influence culture.  "What one
generation tolerates in moderation, the next generation practices in

   B.  It brings us to a point of toleration of the world's methods and
philosophies because we have become comfortable using them in the church. 
"After all, if it `works' in the church, it can't be all bad."

   C.  It allows the unbeliever to see very little difference between the
world and the church.  Therefore, salvation, at the least is an option to
choose or reject, and at most, totally unncessary.  When the unbeliever
sees the same principles in operation both within the church and in the
secular world, he finds no reason to make a change.

   D.  It permits the believer to adopt the same philosophy of
"culturalizing" his own personal life with its dreams, values, and goals.
Because he sees it being used at church, why not at home or on the job? 
This results, of course, in the deterioration and ultimate collapse of
moral absolutes that have guided him in the past.

   E.  It drains the church of much of its resources of finances, time,
energy, and talents, by creating systems and structures that are required
to support the culturalization process.  Friend, whatever else you
remember, do remember this ---- it ALWAYS ---- ALWAYS ---- ALWAYS ----
takes more effort, money, time, and energy to do God's work Man's way than
it does to do it God's way!  And ---- you ALWAYS get less results.

In a nutshell ---- you can call it what it is ----  worldlimindedness!  And
it is at the very heart of the world system and under the domination of the
prince of this world.

THE PLACE OF METHODS:  (Parenthetical)

Now don't get me wrong!  I am NOT attacking methods per se.  Methods come
and go, and depend, to a large extent, on the present culture and the
technology available to that culture.  We should grasp absolutely every
tool of communication and organizational effectiveness we can, subject to,
of course, the purposes and will of God.

Something I learned in the early 1970's while pastoring a larger church in
St. Louis ---- while the Bible addresses things such as motives,
ministries, gifts, etc., it seldom deals with methods.  Why is that?  I
believe it is because, while principles remain the same from one generation
to the next, and in every culture, methods on the other hand, vary ---- for
many reasons ---- resources, abilities, openness to change, etc.

So ----go for every method and other resource available to you.  Just be
sure it fits into God's pattern of conduct and purpose, and be sure it does
not bleed across the line into the world's systems.

2)  WHAT IS AT THE HEART OF CULTURALIZATION?  (What Makes a Worldliminded

John identifies three aspects of worldlimindedness in I John 2:15-16:
   A.  Lust of the flesh ---- the craving desire to "DO" something apart
from God (The flesh wars against the Spirit and the Spirit against the
   B.  Lust of the eye ---- the craving desire to "HAVE" something apart
from God.
   C.  Pride of life ---- the craving desire to "BE" something apart from

Perhaps at another time I will develop that for you, but let me list some
scriptures to show you that this is at the very heart of God's purpose for
us, at the very heart of Satan's attack on God's most prized creation ----
man ----, and at the very heart of Jesus' act of redemption.
   A.  Genesis 1:26 ---- God's purpose for man.  ("image"  [Be], 
"likeness" [Have],  "dominion" [Do])
   B.  Genesis 3:6 ---- The core of man's fall. ("make one wise" [Be],
"delight to the eyes" [Have], "good for food 
to take and eat" [Do].
   C.  Genesis 11:4 ---- the driving motive at Babel  (Same principles).
   D.  Luke 4:3-9 ---- Jesus' temptation by Satan  in the wilderness
   E.  Isaiah 14:13-14 ---- The very heart of Satan's initial rebellion
against God, and the heart of his present-day strategy (Again).
   F.  I Jn 2:15-16 ---- The initial substance of John's warning about the
consequences of loving the world and the
things of the world (Once more).

I really wonder, dear friend, if many church leaders fully realize just how
destructive this culturalization process has been to the effectiveness of
the church.  It's no wonder we need REVIVAL!  Praise God, He is sending it!

simply list a few  where I believe the church of today uses culturalized
approaches to doing God's work.  Hopefully, none of these will be
applicable to where you minister, but they are certainly evident in a very
large portion of today's churches.

   A.  Bible Teaching: ---- In many churches the grading system for our
programs is NOT built on Biblical principles clearly defined in Scripture,
but rather on a system designed solely according to the way the humanistic
NEA determined years ago would work best.  For convenience sake, we decided
to follow the pattern of the school grading system and the school year for
the benefit of continuity, no matter what negative results might occur.   

The primary flaw is found in not recognizing the difference between
intellectual impartation of information and divine revelation through
Spirit-anointed teachers.  It is a system that fosters both the
intellectualization of Scripture to which I referred last letter, and also
the selection of unqualified and uncalled teachers on the basis of need,
coercion, and feelings of guilt, rather than their selection based on their
calling, spiritual giftings and burning commitment to minister living truth
to their students.

 By buying into that approach, we have also further fragmented the family
unit, have taken away the responsibility of the older teaching the younger,
and especially have released the parents from the responsibility of raising
their children in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord."  If you will
take time to study it, you'll find some very clear principles about how
God's word is to be taught and how believers are to be discipled ---- and
it is NOT the way the majority of churches are doing it.  Most churches are
using a hybrid homogonization of "part world and part scriptural" ---- and
like hybrid corn, while the volume yield may increase, the nutritional
content steadily diminishes year by year.  Try asking some of your members,
even your adults, some basic Biblical questions and see what you come up

   B.  Church Growth: ---- Many churches also see growth as only a
localized goal in which you bring in more and more people to one location
occupied by more and more buildings in order to create bigger and bigger
numbers requiring larger and larger organizational structure, rather than
recognizing that the New Testament way of church growth was to multiply by

 Instead of building one great mega church, try going out to where the
people are with some of your members and start a new work.  By the way,
don't rationalize that issue by trying to claim that adding new SS classes
fulfills that need.  That doesn't even come close.

One of the first things that happened to me in 1975 when I went to pastor a
small struggling church in Iowa was that the senior pastor of a
fast-growing church in nearby Des Moines asked me to come see him.  He had
one question ---- "What is your vision for your church?"  After I answered,
he explained why he had asked.  He wanted to challenge and encourage  about
100 of his people, who lived in our bedroom community but drove into Des
Moines for church, to come and help us.  How many pastors do you know who
would do that?

It seems to me that too many of us speak with "forked tongues".  On the one
hand we keep telling our people to "go into the world", and, at the same
time, find unique ways to tell them to "keep coming here".  We need to
confess our hypocrisy and make up our minds which we want ---- our own
kingdom, or the world-wide kingdom of God.

   C.  Counseling Ministry ---- The way Christian counseling is done in
some churches is more worldly and humanistic than it is Biblical.  
Frankly, I believe this area is one of the most potentially explosive and
destructive areas of culturalization on the church today.  My wife and I
can speak from personal experience as to the catastrophic results of
so-called "Christian counseling" done by an individual who, because of
totally unscriptural principles, greatly influenced the destruction of a
family member's marriage.  We have been watching the heartbreak for more
than two years, and seems it will never end.

 Some who counsel in this way assume, of course,  that just because they
use Scripture in their counseling or use scriptural principles in their
approaches, that it automatically makes their counseling both Christian and
Biblical ---- when, in fact, nothing is further from the truth.  In many
cases both the motive of the counselee and the counselor are far from
spiritual, and far from Scriptural.  And, tragically, ministries have been
ruined and even churches destroyed because of that.

If I were to pastor a church again, here is what I would do concerning
Christian counseling:

     A)  I would de-commission counseling from being an "official" ministry
of the church into that of being  a vital part of the body life ministry of
people exercising their spiritual gifts, practicing the more than 90 "one
anothers" of scripture and carrying out  the five-fold ministry of
restoration as Jesus announced it in Luke 4:18-19 .

     B)  I would refuse, as a pastor, to be the first option to counseling
members of my church.  Instead, I would train my lay leaders both in
spiritual maturity and in practical techniques how to minister life and
healing to those spiritually, emotionally, and relationally bruised. 
Nearly everything they would need to know can be boiled down into three or
four very simple Biblical principles, the most important of which is the
issue of Forgiveness.  My wife and I would be available as a last resort,
or as a support.  Somehow we must explode the myth that only we pastors and
staff are "professionally qualified" to minister to the hurts and wounds of

     C)  I would lead my people to work as spiritually gifted teams of
ministers committed to healing and restoring those who are hurting.

     D)  I would train the older to minister to the younger ---- older men
to younger men, and older women to younger women.

     E)  I would train every husband how to be a Biblical counselor to his
wife and children.  That is one of two things that would cut the moral
failures of pastors by more than one half.  The other is that, if there
were ever a time a pastor needed to minister to a woman, he would do so
with both the knowledge of and approval of the husband, and then would also
spend personal time with the husband showing him how he can learn to
minister to his own wife. 

I would do that even with unsaved men.  What better way to witness to an
unsaved husband than to show him the expectations God has of him in
relation to the emotional and spiritual leadership and protection of  his
wife and children?

     F)  I would NEVER minister to a woman privately, but would always have
my wife with me as my first choice.  If she were not available, then I
would find another older woman of wisdom.  Why?  Is it because I don't
trust myself?  No, but rather, I need to recognize that a man who has a
compassionate heart doesn't have the foggiest idea of how the emotional
condition of a hurting woman can innocently lead into areas of ministry and
levels of relationships that far exceed God's intentions.

Further, a man does not understand how the heart and emotions of a woman
see things and seek emotional response that affirms her.  Only another
woman can see that.  If you think that isn't true, just ask your wife.

Do  you see how these simple things are so very different from the methods
used in most churches?  The church leadership, for either our own ego and
need for affirmation or security, or out of ignorance, have bought into one
of Satan's most successful traps to destroy marriages, lives, churches, and
pastoral ministries ---- using the world's approach to "counseling" by
giving it an official professional title, and then using the world's
methods, out of which often come unbiblical ideas such as "you owe me", the
Christian life focuses around "my needs", and "I am a victim who deserves

   D.  Church Funding: ----  Most churches, when it comes to building
buildings or securing funding for some project, use the world's approach to
getting the money to do it ---- fund raising gimmicks and gadgets, or
borrowing the money ---- and almost always from ungodly institutions with
ungodly securities and ungodly motives.  How, in heaven's name, can we
justify that?

   E.  Enlisting and Witnessing: ---- While I do not see anything
particularly wrong with using commercially prepared materials as
promotional and/or witnessing tools, I do believe that these have had a
backlash of culturalizing our churches in two ways:  First, they have often
taken the place of personal involvement and have lifted the burden of
responsibility for witnessing from the shoulders of the church members. 
Second, it has diminished, and in some cases, erased the notion that
Biblical evangelism is strictly a ministry and task built on relationships
---- sometimes long term relationships, and no amount of slick looking
professionally prepared materials can compensate for that great tragedy.


As you have considered my comments, is it reasonable to conclude that the
western church has indeed, in many ways  allowed the approaches, motives,
and reasoning of the world to not only infiltrat the life of the church,
but also to become so imbedded in it that any attempt to return to Biblical
principles would require unbelievable spiritual courage,and even perhaps
the loss of reputation or of members for the average pastor or other church
leader willing to pay the price?

I will tell you,however, dear friend, that it will be worth whatever price
you have to pay to turn it around, because, even though man may not, God
will honor your obedience!

In Hebrews 12, we see the awesome process of God shaking "everything that
can be shaken so that which can remain will remain".  It is the process of
God separating the wheat from the chaff ---- distinguishing between the
legalistic performance-oriented church of Sinai and the Spirit empowered
Christ honoring church of Mt. Zion.  I began preaching from that passage
more than ten years ago  trying to help churches, leaders, and believers in
general understand some of the extraordinary things going on in our world,
both in the secular arena and in the Christian.

In doing so, I discovered three basic plumbline principles that God seems
to be following when doing all this shaking.  It is essential that we
consider them when trying to discern which approach is acceptable and which
is off limits ---- which will stand up to God's standard of conduct and
which will not.

A.  Is the Source you are using possibly  Built on Godless Values?

B. Is the  System you are copying potentially  Set toward Godless Purposes?

C. Is the  Structure you have adopted actually  Depending on Godless

Now, before you jump to a quick "No!" (which I wish we all could do), let
me ask you to carefully scrutinize everything that goes on in your church. 
Examine what you are doing, the real reason why, the resources you are
depending on to make it work, and the true motives of your heart and those
of your church leaders.  How much of what you are doing could go on without
God?  Whatever that part is, is the part that has become culturalized by
the world system ---- no matter how sacred, prized, and even essential it
may  seem to be.

By and large, anytime we use the world's standard as a measurement for
success, we are using "culturalized" approaches to the work of the Lord. 
And, any time we use the world's procedures for success, we are using
"culturalized" approaches to the work of the Lord.  "These things ought not

It is time to reverse these centuries-old patterns of adopting worldly
means of doing God's work.  Let's follow anew the eternal standard of
"holiness unto the Lord" not only in what we believe, but also in how we

This is certainly not meant to minimize the value of good resources and
methods, but, instead, is meant to challenge you to seriously examine your
personal life and that of your ministry to see just how much of the world
may have crept in unnoticed.  You see, the Bible is very clear that "the
world and all that is in the world is passing away".  I know you don't what
any of that to happen to your ministry.

As you look forward to this new week, be thrilled and thankful that God
loves you, your family, and your ministry so much that He desires more than
anything that you be free from the world and all that is in the world ----
the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life ---- that
is, the craving desire to do something, have something, and be something
apart fromGod.

Follow Him as He leads you progressively into the likeness of His Son! 
What a way to go!

In Christ's Bond,

Bob Tolliver

Copyright April, 1998.  Permission is given to share this newsletter, with
credits, to anybody you feel will benefit from it.

ADDRESS:  Route 1, Box 87AB, Collins, MO 64738
Ph: 417-275-4854.   Fax: 417-275-4855
E-mail: lifeunlimited@...