My church can beat up your church
The writer is a church pastor and a regular columnist for The Journal.
By Dave Havir
BIG SANDY, Texas--Once upon a time, a wise old man and his teenage grandson went for a walk. As they became a little tired, they stopped and sat on a bench.
Also on the bench were two men arguing about religion. Grandpa and the boy overheard the conversation.
Man No. 1: Why didn't you join my church? Our church is the best church.
Man No. 2: No, our church is the best.
No. 1: We follow Mr. Armstrong better than anyone else.
No. 2: That is not true. Our group follows his teachings more thoroughly than anyone else.
No. 1: Can't you see that our council of elders is the true successor to Mr. Armstrong? We have the mantle and baton of leadership. We are the chosen group to preserve the truth.
No. 2: How can you say that? Our church is the chosen group to preserve the truth.
No. 1: There is only one group that is God's government on earth, and that is us. We are the only group that has the authority to bind and loose doctrine.
No. 2: You are wrong. My church is God's government on earth, and we are the only group that has the authority to bind and loose doctrine.
No. 1: Our church does the work of God better than anyone else.
No. 2: It does not.
No. 1: Does too.
No. 2: Does not.
Throughout this conversation, the teenager glanced at his grandfather's face and noticed a slight smile. However, during the two men's next two statements the boy saw his grandfather wince.
No. 1: Salvation comes by submitting to the authority of our church leaders.
No. 2: No way. Salvation comes by submitting to the authority of our church leaders.
The men then went their separate ways.
Unlearning church errors
Since the teenager had attended a Church of God throughout his 16 years, he was familiar with some of the concepts in the discussion he overheard. But he knew that his grandfather had attended a Church of God for more than 50 years, so he asked him some questions.
Teenager: Who is Mr. Armstrong?
Grandpa: He and his wife began the Radio Church of God in the 1930s. She died in 1967, and he died in 1986.
Teenager: Do you want to focus on Mr. Armstrong as much as some people do?
Grandpa: No, I don't want to focus on any man as much as some people want to focus on him.
Teenager: What did those men mean when they talked about the authority to bind and loose doctrine?
Grandpa: One theory is that God binds people to doctrine through a physical group. Another theory is that a physical group binds God to their conclusions.
Teenager: Which theory do you believe?
Grandpa: I reject both of them, but Itry to be patient with the adults who believe them. It is harder for them to unlearn error than for you to learn truth.
Teenager: What is the work of God those men talked about?
Grandpa: That's their phrase they use to talk about their literature, television shows and youth camps.
Teenager: Do they really think they are doing the biggest and best service projects?
Grandpa: Some people in these groups think that.
Teenager: Do they realize there are charities that have a far greater impact?
Grandpa: They don't like to compare themselves to charities in society that help people, because the churches claim that their mission is to warn people.
Teenager: Do these Church of God groups think they are doing the biggest and best warning?
Grandpa: Some people in these groups think that.
Teenager: The Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons and others have a huge impact in warning people around the world. Why can't these Church of God groups see that?
Grandpa: Sometimes when people get all excited about something, they develop tunnel vision.
Teenager: Grandpa, I noticed that you were smiling during most of their discussion. What was so funny?
Grandpa: I was thinking about two little boys arguing about their dad. One child will say, "My dad is the strongest man in the whole wide world." The other child will say, "My dad is stronger."
Teenager: How does that apply to these two men?
Grandpa: Think about it.
Teenager: Oh, I get it. These two men think their church is the strongest in the whole wide world.
Grandpa: You are a smart boy. All that schooling is paying off.
Teenager: Grandpa, toward the end of the conversation I noticed you stopped smiling and you winced. Why was that?
Grandpa: Those two men said that salvation comes from submitting to the authority of church leaders.
Teenager: Isn't that putting men into the role of Jesus Christ?
Grandpa: Yes, it is, and that's a serious mistake.
Teenager: If you knew they were making a serious mistake, why didn't you say anything?
Grandpa: It is very hard to keep quiet. But then I remember how big God is and how much He loves those two men. Someday God will help them to see their mistake.
Teenager: Is there ever a time to speak up?
Grandpa: Yes. You should be ready to give an answer, but choose your moments to speak up. Proverbs 26:4-5 will help you understand.
Teenager: What about church leaders who think they are spiritually over other people? Should members of a congregation ever tell the leaders they are wrong?
Grandpa: Yes, but people should count the cost before doing it. Many leaders are not going to like it. Although church leaders do not have the same authority as parents, bosses and policemen, many will act like they do.
Praying for people
Teenager: Would God want me to pray for people to unlearn error?
Grandpa: God is very pleased when you pray for people.
Teenager: I am going to ask God to help them realize that their dad is not the strongest in the whole wide world.
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