Further Conversation Over My Post on Essentials

The first collection of replies:  The Facebook Conversation Over My Post on Essentials

The original post:  A Proposed Minimal Set of Essentials

Grady replied:
The people in the book of Acts that reieved the Holy Spirit pre baptism, what was the context of those incidents? Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on his disciples He sent out, was this before their baptism? Absolutly the Holy Spirit is the seal, and the judgement is not a judgement of comdenation (to hell), the judgement is the one that we make a decision aas to if a person has obeyed and become. The scripture is very clear on this. When people hear us say you have not become a Christian yet, they are very quick to assume we are making a judgement of comdemnation against them, and use it because of what the common thinking is concerning judgement (don't judge lest you be judged). Sp to our marching order's...if we are to make disciples (and we are) then what do we teach as to how that happen's...the truth of the matter, no matter what others may teach. We are to teach those who would to believe in the gosple, belive Jesus as God's Son, that He died for the sins of the world, and that when this is accepted, we teach that they need to turn from their sin, confess Christ and then to be baptized (first fruits!). Then when they have obeyed we teach them of the promises of the Spirit, and then comes the how to walk.

In the initial post you asked about "In essentials, unity. In opinions, liberty. In all things, love." And said you had never heard anyone give explanation of this. That is what I was addressing.

You may have forgot what Paul said to always interact with one another in a spirit of humility, gentleness, patience, and love. Without that, our message is lost, this is true, he also said to preach the truth.

You can feel free to teach something different as to the essentials of the truth, but I will not. I teach the scripture, not my opinion. It is our JOB to teach them first to become before we teach them how to be, once we have done this then to be is the true course. If wew don't teach them the path of conversion, it is not I who will do any judgement of condemnation (thankfully not my job to do so).

Hey got to run to my people, God bless your day, may He convince you of His truth in all things. Love you! 
 Regan replied:
Ultimately, we just disagree about how one can receive the Holy Spirit through our understandings of the teaching of Scripture, especially the book of Acts. I feel that the Holy Spirit only comes at baptism crowd has "contextualized" away every difficult passage that disagrees with them. Maybe you also do that. Maybe that is the right approach. I am not comfortable with that approach. Those exceptions are there to show us that there are exceptions. Until either I state that baptism is the only place you can get the Holy Spirit or you acknowledge that those exceptions were given to show that there can still be exceptions, we will just be running around in circles if we continue. That is the crux of our disagreement.

We also disagree on separating what we teach from what are the essentials. I will teach that a person should be baptized after giving their life over to Jesus. Baptism is the normative place for people to receive the Holy Spirit, but that does not mean that I will exclude people who show fruit and acknowledge Jesus as Lord from fellowship. Our movement started with open fellowship and open communion. On the frontier, circuit riders could only make it once a month or once a quarter. People were not allowed to take of the Lord's Supper until the circuit rider came into town. What happened was people started gathering for communion without the clergy. They started baptizing people without the clergy. But they joined together as people who wanted to study the word and living under Jesus' lordship.

Over time, we, who started as a unity through Scripture movement, just became as divisive as the denominations we were trying to bring together. Instead of ending sectarianism, we just added another sect to the fray. Over 150 years later, the denominations have stopped being divisive, non-denominational (locally led) churches are flourishing, and nearly everyone is baptized as adult believers except for in a few mainline denominations. We are fighting battles that were fought for us over 150 years ago. We're like Civil War reenactors remembering the battle, but instead of it just being a hobby, it's really damaging to the Kingdom of God.

The men who started the Restoration Movement, from which the modern Church of Christ/Christian Church come, both took this stance.

Alexander Campbell said:
Should I find one [baptized as an infant] more intelligent in the Christian Scriptures, more spiritually-minded and more devoted to the Lord than…one immersed on a profession of the ancient faith, I could not hesitate a moment in giving the preference of my heart to him that loveth most. Did I act otherwise, I would be a pure sectarian, a Pharisee among Christians.

Barton Stone said:
None of us are disposed to make our notions of baptism, however well founded, a bar of christian fellowship. We acknowledge all to be brethren, who believe and obey the Saviour, and, who walking in the Spirit, bear his holy image; yet, in the meekness of Christ, we labor to convince such of their duty in submitting to every ordinance of the Lord.

My list of essentials came from the same vein that the Church of Chirst/Christian Church was founded on. We teach baptism, yet we do not make it a test of fellowship. Who am I to say that a person who is not baptized but is more faithful and fruitful is saved? God knows their heart. Paul wrote, "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God." I will teach them the Scriptural teachings on baptism, but God knows their heart and their lives show evidence of the Spirit.

I believe I teach Scripture. You can call it my opinion; it is. So is what you teach. Each one of us teach our opinion of what Scripture teaches. Some day we will know fully as is taught in 1 Corinthians 13:12. Until then, everyone filters Scripture, hopefully in tune with the Spirit, through their own brains, experiences, etc. So we always teach what we believe is the truth, but we must always do it as Paul taught, with humility, gentleness, patience, and love.

Do you really believe that every person not immersed as an adult believer does not have the Holy Spirit? How do you reconcile those verses that I mentioned on how Jesus and Paul taught us how to know who are Jesus' followers?
Regan replied to Dan's previous reply: 
It is a biblical explanation of why we can work with people who are not from our particular background on furthering God's work and accept them as brothers and sisters in Jesus where they are, but in a way it also deals with who is saved and who is not. But it does not deal with what I would teach to someone who wants to be saved. I have no qualms saying that the ministers I consider my friends from other denominations are my brothers in Jesus. They don't have to be brothers in Jesus to be my friends, but I see the love of Christ in their lives, the fruit of the Spirit growing in them, and they share my proclamation that Jesus is Lord. It does not mean that we just leave things rest and don't dialogue with one another on our differences. It's just that I think that dialogue should happen in the context of accepting one another as a brother and sister in Christ. I think they have as much to teach me as I do them, as long as we keep the Bible as the center of those discussions.

As for the rest of what you wrote, I agree wholeheartedly. "The church is probably in the state it is in because we love judging outsiders and refuse to collectively judge those inside the church. We have completely backwards maybe because we have not challenged each other's motives." I agree that we have the whole judging people backward. Those outside of Jesus, I do not judge. Those inside, I judge, but in a gentle, patient, and loving way to help them be who God wants them to be. They should do the same to me. Together, we spur one another on to reach the prize.
 Laura's response:
Yeesh, I tried to read all those, but I'm getting sleepy. I'll leave the scholarly talks to you guys...I just felt from the heart that forcing a list isn't what's needed. God could have made the Bible much clearer, shorter, more compact. He... could have used lists and numbers or used only a few writers to keep us from "discussing" what THAT writer intended. He didn't. It requires us to rely heavily on the Holy Spirit to interpret it and over time and seasons and experiences, we see things we'd never seen before. Is this because we were just wrong before and now we are right, or because God gives us these things in His time? I just don't think a list is necessary. I think we can deal with things as they come and have the answer at that time. If I come upon someone and I want to decide if they are a brother or not, I can look at a list. That sounds convenient. But I could also decide in that moment what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell me-through the Bible, through other believers, through experience, and always with love. Or decide over a period of time, etc...

I'm not automatically against lists or creeds or church goals, etc... but sometimes I wonder why we need to put things in OUR (by "our" I mean mine and whoever agrees with me) own words apart from scripture. Call me floppy, but I don't have hard and fast rules about certain things (or most things, for that matter), and I don't think you're wrong for wanting to clarify, for the sake of unity, the essentials. But I don't know that it's best either. I've used catch phrases of the church and have found them helpful to me and to others, but I don't think they were necessary.
 Regan's reply to Laura:
My list was a list of Scriptures and not my opinions. But I understand your hesitancy because it was my opinion that chose which Scriptures to include. How does one decide what Scriptures would be used as a test of fellowship? Do we use all... of Scripture, and they have to agree with us on everything? Do we use more than what I used or less? You would say that it is up to the Holy Spirit. That's what I think I was saying in a more structured way. If they have the Spirit, I can discern that, and they claim Jesus is Lord and follow the greatest commandment, then they are brothers and sisters. The problem is that those who refuse to have a list like this often are the most divisive and sectarian. I'm not saying you are, but I have experienced that. They typically have lists, that if written out would be longer than any denominational handbook.

Would you accept someone as a brother who said that Jesus is not Lord, showed absolutely no fruit of the Spirit in their life, did not strive to live a life of loving God and loving God or loving their neighbor? I am pretty sure I wouldn't. Even in the moment. But the list was focused more on us being able to have fellowship with people in the community who might not go to a church with the same name on the sign as our church or all of the same beliefs as our church.

The four Scriptures I chose were selected to help my local church pull back from all of the divisiveness and sectarianism that our movement in this geographic area struggles with, focus on the essentials, and move forward to minister to our community from there.

Also, in the local context, we are involved in starting a community youth center with other churches. A few struggle with whether that should be done because they were once taught that people in those other churches are not Christians. We make this judgment call whether we want to or not. I laid this out to show what the essentials are and how we are to evaluate whether a person is a Christian or not. I could ignore there frustrations and just say that I think they are a Christian and that should be good enough, but it's my job to teach. So these essentials were more of an explanation of why we can be involved with other churches in a youth center. Not a list to exclude people. I don't think this list would exclude anyone who wanted to be considered a Christian. It's a minimal list of essentials. It's frustrating to some because it includes too many people, not enough essentials. The discussion centers around whether it should be broader, not narrower.

And I understand where they are coming from; we should just teach the Bible. But unfortunately, the issue of who to accept as a brother or sister is an issue that our church was struggling with. So I attempted to teach on that through Scripture. It was a list because I tried to deal with the passages that talked about who to accept and what are the greatest teachings. I could have called it something other than a list, but it was a list nonetheless, whether I called it by another name or not.

How would you teach someone who was saying people are not Christians that those people are in fact Christians? Or how would you teach someone who thought certain people were Christians who you thought were not? Unfortunately, just leaving it alone would not have helped the church move forward, so that really wasn't an option.