Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

October 4, 2006

What do you think of this short article? “[T]hou …

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 1:28 am

What do you think
of this short article?

“[T]hou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” Revelation 3:1

Many churches (both conservative and liberal) lack any real life. They go through the motions of religion, but they experience little of holy supernaturalism in their Sunday meetings — or any other time, for that matter. There is almost no passion. Shouts of praise and joy, tears of love and repentance, hands raised in holy supplication — these are too emotional; too individualistic; too immature; well, too embarrassing. We must at all costs have a respectable and sophisticated religion, and our power has declined as our respectability and sophistication have escalated.

In this sense, our churches bear little resemblance to the primitive Church we encounter in the Bible.

They also bear little resemblance to its world-conquering exploits.

Recently I’ve spoken with members of what is generally regarded as the most conservative Presbyterian denomination in the nation. They’re told me that their churches are filled (make that, half-filled) with mostly elderly saints and that their Sunday “worship” (I’ve yet to find in the Bible any proof that Sunday is specially designed for worship) is all done decently and in order — and with absolutely no life.

Meanwhile, the sanctuaries of many charismatic and evangelical churches are glut with youth. The errors of these churches are many and obvious. The attraction of these churches is also obvious: breezy entertainment, lowest-common-denominator theology, superficiality — and life. We do well to recall that we can purge the entertainment, ratchet up the theology, and correct the superficiality in living churches.

But we can’t resuscitate ecclesiastical corpses, no matter how theologically pristine they are.

Our older denominations (again, both conservative and liberal) are dying. Denominationalism, with all of its bureaucratic tentacles and well-oiled machinery, will probably expire within a century. This death will be healthy for the Church, which did not begin with denominations and has never needed them. The local Church as the covenant community of saints and its weekly Lord’s Day celebration of the His resurrection and His call to victory trump comatose denominationalism every time.

A living Church is a Church replete with holy passion and answered prayer and ecstatic joy and potent tears and vexing problems and theological arguments and all the other things that make for life.

“Pro-life” should denote more than anti-abortion.

It should also denote anti-ecclesiastical corpses.

Thumbs up or thumbs down? Any guess as to who wrote it?



  1. For use of the term ‘Denominationalism’, I’ll make a wild guess of John Frame. Also, this: “We do well to recall that we can purge the entertainment, ratchet up the theology, and correct the superficiality in living churches.” is an unproven assumption — purging the entertainment will likely purge a lot of the lively people. Also, what if life as perceived by this writer is actually what is superficial about the churches he so admires?

    Comment by son1http://ruberad.wordpress.com — October 4, 2006 @ 1:38 pm

  2. Wow, I have to say this is interesting. I don’t think I agree fully with what the writer expresses, and yet I find that my own journey and experience has some similarities.

    My background is one of a Charismatic. My growth has brought me to the Reformed faith, and yet I still hold on to my Charismatic side. I think that represents ‘part’ of this ‘life’ that is missing in the old dead churches mentioned. I am not saying that without the Charismatic, one doesn’t have life.

    Anyway, I like this post, and I figured it was a chance for me to input something positive here for a change. 🙂


    Comment by Kazooless — October 4, 2006 @ 4:37 pm

  3. Denominationalism dead within a century? Maybe. But denominations would need to be replaced with some other kind of accountability structure, in order to enforce the third true mark of the church. But really, isn’t the presbyterian model the most biblical form of church government? And I think our church is full of life anyways (although I did have to search long and hard to find a church with life and without (too much) CCM (and it’s typically co-resident wishy-washiness)).

    For an optimistic take on reformed future, check out this article:

    And kazooless, I applaud your charitable desire to increase brotherly harmony, but history has shown that when Bruce asks for guesses of the authorship of an anonymous text, it is usually for the purpose of knocking it down. It was probably written by Hitler or something.

    Comment by son1http://ruberad.wordpress.com — October 5, 2006 @ 2:03 pm

  4. I had written a nice (?) long response this morning, but it disappeared into cyberspace. I’ll try again. Given R’s hint about authorship, I’d say Rick Warren, but who knows?

    OK–here goes.

    Life produces growth, so to measure life we must discern whether the community/individual is showing any evidence of the fruits of the Spirit. These fruits are not logically related to outwards shows of “life” as described by the author or to the lack of such shows. They are not logically related to whether the local community is part of a denomination or not. The author has set up a false dichotomy that I am not going to fall for. Probably most bodies of believers are a mixture of life and dying. I know that ours is.

    Comment by Sister — October 5, 2006 @ 7:29 pm

  5. John Frame is not all that far from being correct. The writer is a fellow named Andrew Sandlin. Sorry for the let-down. I say Frame is not a bad answer because Frame is a bed-fellow with Sandlin with respect to, among other things, the Federal Vision movement that is currently eroding the PCA.

    Briefly, here are my thoughts regarding this article. In short, this article is 100% twaddle. Remember that word? It’s a code word for what, again? OK. Good. Now you know the short version of what I think.

    The non-brief version follows along these points: 1)the church we “encounter in the Bible” is not one we should be emulating in nearly all cases. This is borne out by the very verse this guy quotes: Rev 3:1. Clearly, Jesus calls out a dead church. Not to mention 6 other churches that had issues – and would you really want to attend the church in Corinth? 2)I firmly believe only Jesus has the authority (there being no apostles around anymore) to make such heinous declarations about his church. 3)this guy’s disparagement of the Word of God and especially the gospel in the context of whether it brings life irrespective of outward shows of piety is suspect if not foolish. 4)this guy exposes himself as one who doesn’t hold to the doctrine of the visible and the invisible church. He seems to have superman vision – being able to identify sheep and goats based on outward behaviour. 5)His pot-shot at denominations gets him the red card for being a hack thinker. Especially as he makes no causal connection between “denominationalism” and deadness. Isn’t he aware of the Assemblies of God or the Southern Baptist Convention (Warren’s denomination) two denoms who get it on pretty well. 6) So, he pretty much spreads his lye all around the pasture. Denoms get it, liberals get it, conservatives get it, rockin out evangelicals get it, the Word of God gets it, the Holy Spirit gets it. The gospel gets it.

    I will get you some good stuff to munch on next time.

    Comment by Bruce S — October 6, 2006 @ 6:13 am

  6. I was pleased to read Bruce’s critique of the article. There was much in it that struck a discordant note in my reading of it. “Holy supernaturalism”, what is that? and how is it achieved? Gone in a century? Who says? That’s a really wild guess. Now to the one that really gets me,”find in the Bible any proof that Sunday etc.” That brings to mind, “where in the Bible does it say preachers must be ordained?” And finally, what is so bad about denominationalism? Maybe there are too many, and at time at cross purposes with on another, but denominations certainly make it possible for the church to do more that individual isolated congregations can do. In the case of my denomination, the CRWRC is much more effective than any individual effort could be. And it is surely effective. Just ask the people in any area that has been hit by disasters of one sort or another.

    Comment by Anonymous — October 7, 2006 @ 7:53 pm

  7. Bruce, you are one unique cowpoke. One would think you were raised on the farm for all the fertilizer references.

    Your boy seems to insult everyone equally, so everybody gets a bone.

    You already know what I think of the “Let’s sing nothing written in the last 25 years” mentality. I often wonder how King David would feel if he attended one of these pipe-organ-sporting outfits on Sunday and felt like worshiping the way he describes it in the Psalms. Of course he would look pretty silly trying to do his Davidic dancing to “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds.”

    Anyway, you really know how to push my buttons. Got to cut this short, because I hear the electric guitar and the bass warming up in the sanctuary…Rock and roll, babeeeeee!

    Comment by James — October 15, 2006 @ 4:04 pm

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