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Drawing a line in the sand …

September 26, 2008

By: Carole D. Hicks

Your child comes to you and says, “Daddy, what do we believe?”

“About what?” you asked.

“At church … about God.” the child answers.

Do you know what you will say? And even more, will your lifestyle and actions line up with what you say? Will your answer give clarity or confuse the child? Are you clear on what you believe? Is doctrine important to you?

An acquaintance of mine, who happens to attend a Methodist church, was sharing with me his discontent and disillusionment of his particular denomination’s stance on homosexuality, and specifically that a homosexual pastor had been ordained and was pastoring a church. He had gone so far as to contact the “powers that be” in the regional headquarters of the church to voice his disagreement, but was dismissed more or less. In our conversation, he also talked about the local church’s apathy toward evangelism, and that he really didn’t agree with the teachings (or doctrine) that his daughter was having to learn as part of her upcoming confirmation.

I asked him why he continued to go there, and even subject his children to the beliefs of a denomination that do not line up with his own beliefs. His answer was simply, “Well, my grandfather and my father were always members and leaders in this church, and I just don’t want to break family tradition.”

I know this man to be a staunch conservative, political leader and quite outspoken on his beliefs and ideals. But I see great irony in his unwillingness to draw the line in the sand when he truly stands against the practices and policies of his church and denomination.

I wonder if his membership in the church, and/or his commitment to traditions outweigh the value he places on the doctrine of God’s Word and what he truly believes? Furthermore, I wonder if that’s a healthy way of life, (spiritually speaking)?

It is not an oddity for people to attend a particular church and have little or no regard for the doctrine being taught at that church. When people come and go from churches today, how often do you hear someone say, “I just love the doctrine.”

Usually they choose churches based on the way they “feel” when they attend. Were they welcomed? Were they loved on? Were their programs for the children? Is the music to their liking? Was the preacher engaging, cutting-edge, relevant?

I’ve heard people say, “I like going [here or there] because I have friends who go there.”

Last year, I began a study that I titled, “Communicating God.” As part of the study, I sent out 150 surveys to friends who were church members and also some church leaders, asking a few plain and simple questions regarding what they believed about God, Jesus, Holy Spirit and church. Out of the 150 surveys sent out, five were returned to me. I asked one church leader if she received it, and she replied, “Yes, but I didn’t know what it meant and just didn’t fool with it.”

I guess it didn’t really mean anything, except in Timothy we are instructed to always be ready to give an answer for our beliefs. Can you answer these questions that were in the survey?

· What is God like?

· Who is Jesus?

· Describe the Holy Spirit?

· What is the purpose of the church?

Are your answers more inclined to line up with the doctrine of God’s Word or religious dogma. Don’t be confused, as some are, that doctrine is synonymous with dogma … the tenets or traditions of one’s religion. There is a difference, you know; and that’s where that “line in the sand” becomes pertinent.

I know that traditions are important to people. The provide a sense of security, familiarity and comfort. Traditions can also be binding. However, to dismiss all traditions as bad or legalistic, would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water. That would be almost as bad as chasing after every new phase in religious life and calling it “cutting edge.”

Sometimes I think we just get locked into a way of life and when something comes our way that may or may not be scripturally sound, rather than truly sizing it up against God’s Word, we just passively let it have its place as long as we’re not personally and physically affected. That’s pathetic, in my book. Fence-riding has never been an appealing way of life for me. I am either hot or cold … most times hot. Passion far outweighs passivity in my book … even if it’s a challenging kind of passion.

I don’t wonder why the world does not accept the church. I don’t wonder why they don’t believe church folk. We are as apt to chase whatever rabbit comes our way as not. From the world’s point of view, church can look like just any other power corporation or political machine … moving and shaking to make a name, branding, marketing schemes, programs, festivals, concerts, buying and selling, ever raising funds … all under the guise of “reaching more people” and getting them in on the “plan” as well.

If the plan is “sharing the hope and love of Jesus,” then HOORAY!

But the point of my study is “does Jesus really need a marketing scheme to draw people to Himself?”

How did that [drawing people to Christ] take place before there was multi-media, internet, television, radio, newspapers, book publishers, cars, cell phones, or even telephones? What happened to people “living the life” in ordinary ways and being known for what they believe and standing by it? Are campaigns and promotional products more effective than being able to just sit with a friend and tell her about what Jesus means to you?

And perhaps that’s another good question, “What does Jesus mean to you?” Do you know?

Communicating God should be the easiest thing in the world to do … for those who KNOW HIM, BELIEVE HIM, and WANT OTHERS TO HAVE THIS SAME KNOWLEDGE. It doesn’t take rocket science! It doesn’t take a 12-step plan, a 6-week study, or a jumbo-tron. It takes people knowing whose they are, what they believe … and acting upon it.

You have to know the value of that line drawn in the sand. Sometimes that line is the only thing that keeps you from falling away to any sort of doctrine or dogma. If you don’t draw that line, it could be that “anything goes.” And that’s a whole lot like the view of the world.

(Watch for part 2 …. Coming soon)

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 26, 2008 9:19 am

    Tradition is a hard thing to cut ties with. I respect the traditions of my parents and grandparents also. But I wonder what your friend’s grandfather might have done if his church had ordained a homosexual minister 60 years ago. The tradition might never have been started there.

  2. Garnett Doty permalink
    September 26, 2008 8:10 pm

    Traditions are good. Tradition is a large part of our makeup and who we are morally and spiritually. BUT, traditions can get in our way serving God. We have to be very careful and search God’s will when the directions of our life are being determined. Sometimes the traditional view is not the God view. We have to be very careful when upholding tradition, and even more careful when we are trying to change tradition.

  3. Raymund Brown permalink
    September 29, 2008 8:26 pm

    Christ himself started traditions such as breaking of the bread at the last supper, and drinking wine which are both symbolic for his sacrifice. True traditions are reminders of who we are, and why we believe as we do. If we remove them for the sake of a “new world view” or from the influences of our culture; then we throw away a part of ourselves that retains the original purpose put forth by Christ: to be set apart from the world and not in the world!

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