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This Week's Teaching: "How to Protect Microchurches Against False Teaching"
The conversation. Anytime I talk with someone about doing micro churches, someone who's in the faith, typically someone who's invested in a larger church setting, they wanna know how do we deal with heresy? How do we deal with false teaching? What are the accountabilities? What are the checkpoints? How do we keep it from going just haywire and running amuck.
Last week I had a conversation and I'm telling you about this-- I hesitate because of the topic of it and it's going to go sideways, people will jump on it, and it's fine if you have a word from God to this, that's fine. But I use it as an illustration. And so I'm just gonna say it freely for what it was.
I had a conversation, talking with someone who feels called to minister to the LGBTQ+ community from an affirming position. And they're lifelong believers and they've come to the conclusion, or at least to the speculation that perhaps Jesus is not the only way to the Father, and they would say. " He's the way, the truth and the life for me, but maybe not for everyone." And at the core of that, they would say, Some people are so committed to God and they love God, and if God is gracious, it's hard to imagine him not rewarding that faith, that passion, that love. In fact, even showing wrath to someone who has attempted to do and be good in their own understanding.
And so we were talking about this and as I was explaining how we do microchurch, we gather together, we open scriptures, we invite the "apostle" in (whoever wrote the scripture), rather than me as a specialist, to go have a one-on-one conversa-- like if we're opening to the gospel of John, rather than me going into my office, my study, with John and saying, "Okay, John, tell me everything that you want these people to know. And then I'll go tell 'em." Rather than doing it that way, I just say, "Hey John, would you come talk to my people? Would you come talk to us?"
And so we invite John into the room and there we read his words. We let him say what he wants us to know, and then figuratively we ask questions. So he says things and we go, "But what do you mean about this? Why did you say this? This causes me tension. Oh, I like this part. I really relate to this. I don't relate to that part at all." We have a conversation with the apostles.
So the original disciples, the original church, they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. And so that's what we do. We open up scripture, we let the apostles speak what they want to speak, and then we ask questions of them, of the text. And the goal is to let the text say what it says and not make it say something it doesn't say.
That's how I set up all these things. That's how I encourage people to do the X242 microchurch model.
So I was explaining this in a group setting. And then the lady said, "Oh, cool, so this means that homosexuals can be a part of it." And I had to decide, how do I answer?
Now I spent many years being the gatekeeper of the church. The doctrinal gatekeeper. The theological gatekeeper. I had to decide what gets in, what doesn't get in. And now in my role here, leading a little network of microchurches, I do have a responsibility to help steer things. I wanted to tell you where I landed on it.
Now it didn't blindside me. She had already told me this is where she and her husband come from. Like, this is where they've landed. She had already told me that, and she had asked me earlier, would someone in a homosexual relationship be welcome in any of our groups? And my answer is yes. Everyone is welcome in one of our groups. Everyone. Just like Jesus didn't say, "Eh, you're too much of a sinner, you can't come in here." It's like, everyone's welcome. Absolutely. Regardless of the sin, everyone, we are all welcome and we all come in flawed with a past and with a present.
And I told her that if what you're looking for is people can come in and we will not spend any time on the scriptures that make them uncomfortable, I'm not gonna say that. We will read every scripture. We will let the apostles say what they say. Even if it offends our modern sensibilities, we will let them say what they say and then we'll have a discussion with them: "Mmmm the way we see it these days, that causes tension." Or "Ah! Right on!" Or listening to each other talk with the apostles and going, "Uh, I agree with what you said but I don't like the attitude!" And, "Man, I love your attitude, but I don't agree with what you said." And have that conversation.
And so I had told her that our groups won't be a place where we protect people's opinions. We gather around the scriptures to let the apostles say what they say. We make sure that we don't, we don't make the scriptures say what they don't say, and we allow them to say what they do say.
And I said that if someone wants to come in and they're sensitive about that, no. I can't guarantee that we won't say things or won't let the apostles say things that hurt their feelings or offend their sensibilities. But I can guarantee that it'll be a safe conversation. Or at least I can say that our goal â€” and if I'm a part of something, my commitment â€” is that it will be a safe conversation for everyone. Safe meaning we're not just gonna jump on people, pounce on people. We won't just roughhouse people. We won't bowl over people. We'll sensitively let the Holy Spirit move through the words given by the apostles. And we'll let the Holy Spirit bring conviction where the Holy Spirit brings conviction about righteousness and sin and judgment to come and all these things. We will allow that to happen in a sensitive, safe space. Meaning the only danger when we gather should be that we each receive conviction and that actually is the safest place to be.
So she and I had already had this conversation. And also about the "Jesus is maybe not the only way" part, I had told her ahead of time that we're not trying to decide whether Jesus is the only way. This is about following Jesus as the only way. In fact, that's our doctrinal statement, if we have one. We follow one path. One path. We follow the way of Jesus. The details are trying to learn what that is and how to apply it.
And so I wasn't blindsided, but in this group setting, she asked, "Oh, so that means homosexuals can be a part of it." And I had to think, how do I respond to this? And I was just honest with her. Of course, they can be a part. Of course. But if the scriptures cause offense, we will let them cause offense. If the scripture calls something an abomination, we won't skip that part. We'll deal with it sympathetically, gently, but directly. And if the scriptures call all of us sinners in something, we will let that stand too.
Our common desire as believers, as followers of Jesus, those devoted to the apostle's teaching, our common desire is to understand the truth, not to nudge the truth, not to find our version of the truth, not to bring this filter of modern science, which is always fleeting. I mean, that's the nature of science is it's always discovering new things. And so if you root yourself in science, you, you'll never be rooted. But it's not to take science and put it as a filter over scripture and read everything through science and go, "Ah, this is what scripture says. But we understand better these days. And so we know it to be this." It's not to do that, it's to recognize science says things, but to look at scripture and say, let it say what it says and don't make it say something it doesn't say.
And so at the end, I had to decide how do I respond to this? Which she wasn't really asking, but like in our network, there's no sign on the dotted line.
Like you can do what we do with anyone. You can gather for a meal and open up scripture together and pray together, and you can love each other. You can do that. There's no corner on the market with us. Like, we're not even trying to do that. We're totally just letting it be what it is and driving people back to scripture, in prayer, full of the Holy Spirit, because that's what scripture and prayer leads us to.
And so I had a decision to make. Do I say, "Mmmm, we're not gonna go there." Or do I say what I said? I said, I believe that if you all got together in read scripture, whatever your interests are, whatever your convictions are about this, I would say get together with others, read scripture and let it say what it says, and don't make it say something it doesn't say. If it offends, let it offend, and adjust your life to scripture. If it affirms, let it affirm, and adjust your life to scripture.
Now, one thing that many of us have already thought of as I've talked, she said, but people have all kinds of different opinions about what the scriptures mean and what they say. And you know, instinctively I go, "Yeah, you're right." But you know what? As I interacted with her, this is the thought that came to me. I said, There are pastors, preachers, who are bored scholastics, trying to make the gospel more likable, more relevant, and to grow their audience. I'm not saying they're trying to just be popular, but to grow their audience, to grow their tribe, so that it is inclusive of anyone and everyone. (Probably a sliver over here they would say, "Well, no, not that.") But inclusive and affirming of everyone because that feels like love.
I told her some people do that with a hard heart. Some people do that with a kind heart. I told her and her husband, "I believe you're coming at this from a kind heart. You desire to be kind." I don't believe that picking and choosing which scriptures you'll live by is kind, but it comes from a kind place. Those who just say, "I don't care what God says, this is what science says," or those who have a bitterness about things, God will judge them. That's not for me to judge. But I can discern whether something comes from a hard heart or a kind heart.
And so I don't know. What do you think? That's where I left it. That's where I left my counsel with them. Get together, open scripture with other believers. Let it say what it says. Don't make it say something it doesn't say. Pray about it and do it. Live it.
And for me, I had to just trust God that he is way more powerful, way more powerful than I will ever be at helping someone understand and do the right thing.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with a lady who came to faith after a lifetime of not being in the faith. Like raised totally outside the Christian faith. And she had lived a hard life. And she became a friend.
We were visiting her one time and this lady said, "You know, no one needs to tell me that sex is dirty. I lived it." She was just saying it in kind of a crass way. "No one needs to tell me that having sex with a lot of people is dirty. I lived it. I know it. That's true. Like, I totally agree with the Bible on that." She said, "But the one thing I can't agree with is what the church says about abortion. I mean, I just don't believe that's wrong. That was my birth control." And she just went on and on.
And in my heart, as one who cherishes human life, in my heart, I had to decide, do I let it be or not? Do I address it? Do I try and gently correct this new believer's opinion about that? And the Holy Spirit told me, "Let it be, let me." And so I did. A year later, she was talking to a group of women, giving her testimony. I wasn't there, but I heard about it later. She said sort of the same thing, but then she said, and you know, I used to say that I didn't believe what the church teaches about abortion because that was my birth control. But you know, recently I've actually come to agree with that, that it's wrong.
The Holy Spirit convicted me to let the Holy Spirit convict her and he did his job. So, I don't know. I've touched on same sex and on abortion, it's like, oh no, we've become political here. It's not political. We make it political. God wants us to be in right relationship, not just with him, but with the truth, and with what is righteous and good and pure and loving. That's his desire for us.
And so if you're a part of this microchurch, when we get together, let the scripture say what they say and don't try to make them say something they don't say. And trust God.
I'm sure I've misspoken something here. I'm sure you've taken offense to something here. I'm open to the conversation, but let's pursue the same thing. God loves you. He wants to turn you from all that is a curse on your life. He designed you for good, for righteousness, for what's beautiful and holy. He designed you to be in right fellowship with him, so be encouraged by that. He loves you so much.