Review of “Letters to the Church” Chapter 4 – The Gang

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We are now in chapter four of “Letters to the church.” This thought hit me pretty hard and I imagine it did some of you as well,

“Any gang member will tell you his homies have his back. They’re there for him. They’re loyal, committed, present. Meanwhile, in many churches, you have about as much of a connection to the people who are supposedly your spiritual family as you would to someone who visited the same movie theater as you.” (p. 72)

Ouch.

Is that a fair statement?

I think it is on one hand – our churches are so large that it is impossible to have a deep connection with everyone. First century churches met in homes so they were much smaller and most likely far better connected. They also had a more hospitable culture than we do today. Moving from home to building comes at a cost.

On the other hand I can point out so many examples of individuals and situations where people have had my back through thick and thin and I know many others would say the same thing. We are a family in many regards or maybe more like an extended family where someone is a second cousin four times removed who you don’t see as often but others really are like your brother or sister.

Thoughts?

Next, he talks about supernatural love and the idea of God binding us together in complete unity. He points to the example of the early church in Acts, something very familiar to those of us in Churches of Christ. He gives a real call to action – to become what we find there.

I believe we, in Churches of Christ, have confused a pattern of worship with restoring New Testament Christianity. Restoring New Testament Christianity would be more than getting Sunday morning “right.” It would require loving as they loved, being on mission as they were on mission, etc.

Finally, he points to Hymenaeus and Alexander in 1 Timothy 1:20 who had disrupted the church with their sin. Paul says he had handed them over to Satan. Here is that verse with some context,

18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” – 1 Tim 1:18-20

Clearly these two had been causing trouble and stirring up doubts in the believers in Ephesus (where Timothy was when Paul wrote him).

The Chan writes this,

“Sadly, there are a lot of people in our churches who aren’t interested in living out loving family like this. I’m going to say something that might be hard to hear: What if we let them leave?…While we design strategies to slowly ease people into Christian commitment and grow attendance at our services, Jesus called people to count the cost from the very start.” (p.82).

What do you think about that?

I think there is a difference between people who are causing trouble and people who aren’t very serious about things. I am also not sure what he means by “let them leave.” These people aren’t asking to leave. They are, by default, lacking action and involvement in the church family. What would you do if a member of your family did that? You would start by asking them to help around the house…to lighten the load on the rest of the family. One might say they were never in the family to begin with but I think that is a dangerous assumption to start with.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this point. Here is who I am more inclined to “let leave” – those who cannot accept a biblical directive for the church. So you cast a biblical expectation and if people threaten to leave over the direction you let them.

Thoughts?

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