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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Back from Beyond

Dare you say anything about this to your pastor and church leaders?

But if men are permitted to add anything of themselves to the divine appointment, I question whether it may not perhaps seem contrary to the judgment of Deuteronomy: Behold, it says, the word which I command thee, thou shalt neither add to it, nor diminish from it.

  - Columbanus, Letter I to the Pope (Irish, 7th century)

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one another...

  - 1 Corinthians 4.6

Many churches today are guilty of two kinds of violations of the Word of God.

First, they fail to do what the Scriptures require. Thus, they do not reach out to their communities with consistent works of service and evangelism. Rather, they try to coax people to come and visit them on Sunday morning, using local media and pop culture to lure folks their way. They do not make disciples; they hold classes. They do not work hard to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Instead, each church goes its own way without considering how it might work together with other churches to increase the visible unity of the Body of Christ.

Second, in place of things they should do, many churches substitute activities which can only be connected to the Scriptures by rationalizing and stretching texts beyond their plain meaning.

Thus, churches decline to do the work of shepherding God's flock and, instead, offer courses, programs, and management structures derived not from Scripture but from the practices of business, education, and the military. Rather than exercise church discipline as needed, churches promote tolerance and "love" for sinners, thus allowing the Body of Christ to become infected with corruption and decay. Rather than promote churches meeting in homes throughout the community, churches build facilities and offer most of their "ministry" in those settings.

Thus we learn to live our "Christian life" at church and not to "push" our views or lifestyle on the folks we meet throughout the rest of the week.

Many churches don't do what the Lord calls them clearly to do; and rather than do what He instructs, many churches offer their own best ideas about how to "do church."

Is it any wonder the Kingdom of God seems to be making so little progress in our midst?

The churches that Columbanus encountered in Gaul were in a compromised and moribund state. They had failed to be the Church and were "taking on water", as he put it, from the surrounding secular and sensualistic culture. Into that setting Columbanus and the other missionaries who accompanied and followed him brought a Christian life of rigorous discipline, plain preaching, aggressive evangelism, serious disciple-making, and cultural confrontation and renewal.

They turned their world upside-down for Christ.

We have turned our world upside-down on our heads, so that it can be difficult to tell where contemporary culture and life end and the life of faith begins.

We must not fail to live out all that Scripture requires. And we must not go beyond Scripture, thinking we can define the life of faith on more agreeable terms. Either way - and we're presently doing both - we sink the Church.

Many churches today have become encrusted with the culture and priorities of our secular and materialistic age, and they can't even recognize how far beyond Scripture they have drifted. It's time to call them back. It won't be easy, but we cannot expect God to bless the Church if we insist on ignoring or "improving on" His Word, rather than following Jesus along the path marked out by divine revelation.

Dare you say anything about this to your pastor and church leaders?

Dare you not?

T. M. Moore, Principal

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T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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