Saturday, January 18, 2014

Accidental Pharisees, Part Three EXCLUSIVITY

These questions from Part Three I am struggling with more than any other of the questions in this book. Why?

I want everyone to be accepted in the church and the concept of Exclusivity and church discipline is hard for me to accept. I can accept my own need for discipline and repentance, but the thought that confession and repentance isn't there for everyone all the time and that church discipline is necessary is hard for me. I want everyone in the church to love each other as in the Mark Lowry quote above. In fact I want everyone everywhere to love each other.  However,  I do not see peace on earth at Christmas or any other time.

Randy Alcorn in his blog talks about a pastor who would not come clean with his congregation and apologize  HERE. The senior pastor did not want an associate pastor to confess wrong doing to the congregation. Randy had confronted that associate pastor about his falsification of his resume, but that man thought it was no big deal. That pastor wanted to be included PERIOD.

The concept of exclusivity smacks of cliches and other snob appeals. Hopefully we have left the concept of the "IN" group behind in high school and not brought it into the church. As a woman in my church I really care to be friendly and hospitable to everyone. I feel this is also important in my neighborhood.

Oh no! Exclusivity is in my neighborhood big time! When we moved to this neighborhood in 2001, I had the first Christmas party for the neighbors. The following year someone else had one and so forth. Each year someone would volunteer. However in 2013, no one had a Christmas party. Things have changed. The one time of the year that I can show the Gospel to my neighbors has been eclipsed and I need to be a little more creative. I am sad about this, but at least this spirit of exclusivity is not in our local church and one of our neighbors is now attending our church.

So here goes my answers to more reflective questions from this book. These questions in red are from pp. 85-86 of Larry Osborne's Accidental Pharisees and as usual my answers are in black. 

1. As you look at the churches and Christians you personally know, are there any areas where you believe the bar needs to be raised in terms of what it means to follow Jesus? Yes. If so, list them. 

Young vs. old. 
Singles vs. couples. 
Handicapped vs. well people. 
Educated vs. non-educated. 
Home schoolers vs. public schoolers. 
Women who work outside the home vs. women who stay home. 

What makes these things particularly important?

Unity in the church does not mean uniformity. For example, one family may not be able to afford to homeschool and that should not mean that they can't attend a certain church. Homeschooling is recommended by our church, but I do not think it is mandated.  I would have to agree that it is great for families because as a retired public school teacher and current substitute teacher I see first-hand many disadvantages in the public schools. I am not barred from my church because I work in the public school.

2. Have you ever found yourself drawn toward an expression of Christianity that emphasized "thinning the herd" more than "expanding the kingdom"? No.  If so, what are some of the areas and issues you focused on? How would you respond differently today?

a. As we saw, a bias toward (or a delight in) thinning the herd is spiritually dangerous and out of line with Jesus. If you had to confront someone who preferred thinning the heard to expanding the kingdom, what would you say to them? We have had incidents of church discipline in our congregation, and I have felt that it was not my business. I do know that the pastor was eager to maintain church unity and that one individual or even a group are not free to move the church in a certain direction that the Presbytery doesn't approve of.

b. Obviously, there is a time and a place to thin the herd. Jesus did so. Can you think of some areas today where we need to thin the herd? Adultery, stealing of church funds, heresy and lying about ones resume as in the link to Randy Alcorn's blog above.

3. Have you ever experienced or observed the NIMBY effect (Not In My Back Yard) in your own church, small group, or circle of Christian friends? Only in my neighborhood. What happened? Maybe I could say a lot here, but it would be hearsay. A Catholic man let me know that certain neighbors were in effect "trash". He resisted any suggestions I had about keeping the peace. He had the NIMBY attitude. What can you learn from that experience? Probably that Satan is alive and well on planet earth!

4. Would you agree that, at some level, we are all "consumer" Christians?  Why or why not? And is that a good thing, a bad thing, or no big deal? Well I must say that I am a consumer of Reformed theology such as the Housewife Theologian book that I recently went through with 12 posts on this blog. However, I do not think that Accidental Pharisees is "Reformed" per se. It just provides much biblical reflection for me. Hopefully Reformed folks take note of the book's insights with this post.

5. Looking back over the chapters in part 3, what one thing most jumps out at you as something you had never seen before or you need to work on most? Discipleship demands are often a recipe for Phariseeism. Here are great nuggets from the book.
There is something worse than settling for mediocrity. It's exclusivity. It's the temptation to up the ante and to raise the bar of discipleship so high that it disqualifies all but the most committed, and thus thins the herd that Jesus came to expand (p. 69).   
The same holds true in our neighborhoods. After the pioneers have moved in, they almost always band together to keep the future settlers out. Land developers call it MIMBY (Not in My Back Yard). p. 74 
If we want to reach out to sinners like Jesus did, then our list of approved sinners will also have to include the carnal, cultural, and consumer Christians who populate our pews. . . . Our ultimate goal can be nothing less than full obedience to everything Jesus taught. It's the only way we can fulfill the second half of the Great commission (p. 82) 
The truth is that Jesus didn't come to raise the bar. He didn't come to weed out the losers. He came to turn losers, laggards, and enemies into full-on sons and daughters of God (p. 84).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
What makes that particular principle or insight important? There are insights here that I need to keep returning to, including whom to invite to church or faith in Christ for that matter. Expand the bar!

How do you plan to respond to it? This blog post,  prayer and being a light in my neighborhood and broader world sharing the Gospel.


  1. I think I would have a hard time being part of a church that practiced exclusivity. I remember years ago when my in-laws were attending a church, they told my husband that there was a man there who wanted to be an usher, willing to serve, but the church would not let him serve as an usher because they wanted their ushers to wear suits and he didn't want to wear a suit. Sad thing is, he left the church, probably to go and serve elsewhere where a suit was not required, and the church put physical appearance over someone's heart.

    I know our church has a pretty open door policy, but they do work on helping people to see perhaps they need to align their behavior to be more of what God would want them to do. Case in point, we had several couples living together without the benefit of marriage who happened to get pregnant. Over time the pastor met with them and counseled them on the wisdom of being married, how God views marriage, etc., and each of the couples ended up getting married before the babies were born.

    I'm not really good in inviting people to church, I tend to stay within myself in our neighborhood, but I know that is something I need to work on as I do believe God wants to grow his kingdom rather thin the herd.

    Again, interesting thoughts and concepts in the book!


    1. Thanks so much, Betty, for following this series and commenting so apropos.
      Next week it is the topic of legalism.



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