Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's Not the Church

This little battle over speakers at the homeschool convention in Cincinnati gives me an opportunity to point out something of great importance to American Christians at this historical moment.

The homeschool movement is not going to save America.

Conferences, conventions, concerts, camps, movements, museums, ministries, celebrity speakers, and crusades are the stuff of life of evangelical Christianity in this nation. Many Christians derive their Christian identity from their participation in the ministry for which they "feel a burden." It is not too much to say that many Christians have a fetish for celebrity conference speakers, concert artists, and latest and greatest Christian books. These things may have their place, but we need to clearly understand that they are not the answer for all our ills.

Now, as you folks know, I'm all for homeschooling. I disciple my six children at home, and I'm happy to encourage other families to do the same. But homeschooling does not translate into a massive movement of the Spirit of God, neither do all the other things I just listed.

There is a simple reason I make this assertion - homeschooling is not the church.

Christ has promised to build his church, and to his church he has committed the message and the gifts needed to accomplish his mission. There is no way to make disciples apart from the functioning manifestation of the body of Christ, which is the local church.

The homeschool convention referenced above provides a good illustration of what happens when Christian unity is reduced to feeling led by the Spirit and not criticizing anyone else who claims to be Christian. Read the full email (found in this article) sent by Brennan Dean, leader of the homeschool convention in Cincinnati, to Answers in Genesis, and pay attention to the reasoning. I don't know about all that happened in this situation, but I can see what was plainly communicated by the homeschool convention leadership - "It is unchristian to criticize the beliefs of another professing Christian. We don't allow doctrinal controversy at our convention. That's not loving." If this is what it means to be a Christian, then it is no wonder that being a Christian is meaningless.

Why would a homeschool convention feel the need to avoid doctrinal controversy, even over such basics as the authority, clarity, sufficiency, and inerrancy of the Bible? Why does being nice trump fundamental and defining Christian doctrine? According to their statement, I believe the answer is found in their faulty view of Christianity which is represented in their constituency. The convention wishes to be "unashamedly Christian" without putting boundaries on what that actually means. They studiously avoided even mentioning the fundamental issue which Ken Ham raised, which was not the creation debate but the authority of the Word of God. They want to leave it up to the parents to decide what their families ought to believe, as long as it is "Christian." They wish to rise above sectarian divisions.

The reality is that there is no such thing as Christian unity with those who deny the inerrancy of the Bible and undermine its authority, as BioLogos unashamedly does (see, for example, this clear assessment by Albert Mohler).

Well, there is a pathway toward true Christian unity, but it is painfully clear that a homeschool convention lacks the spiritual navigation kit to walk it. There is only one institution that has the spiritual resources necessary to build unity founded on the truth of Christ, and that institution is the church.

Now it just so happens that life in the church is not glamorous. It doesn't have outstanding speakers and Tim Hawkins live. Real pastors aren't rock stars. Meeting with fifty or a hundred nose-blowing brothers and sisters doesn't have the carnival euphoria of going to a convention. There are no famous people. You know that half of the people there have real problems, and the other half have problems that you don't know about. (At least at a conference you don't have to deal with other people's personal lives.) But God has said that the church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. God uses what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chooses what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has equipped his church with the preaching of the Word, with the ordinances, and with church discipline, and thus armed by the Spirit, the church holds forth the gospel that can save. She disciplines her members and she puts false brothers away from the Table. This is not glamorous life, but it is life from the Spirit.

If we want to see the cause of Christ advance, we need to commit ourselves to the one institution which Christ has promised to build. We need to define ourselves primarily, not by our homeschooling (or any other movement), but by our membership in Christ's body with the structures Christ designed.


Todd Mitchell said...

Well said!

Anonymous said...

Amen and thank you for the post. The 2nd paragraph was especially helpful and well put. -chad

Jay said...

The commenters on the article to which you referred displayed a vitriol that has become all too common in regard to Christians and our beliefs. How unpleasant!