A Sidekick's Blog

A True Church is More

January 30, 2017
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According to Ligonier, the marks of the true church are:

Pure preaching of the gospel,
Pure administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and
Church discipline.

But of course, a true church ought to be more than just these. It is a place where disciples are made. It is a place where the people become a family and friendships are forged that make discipleship – and pure gospel preaching, pure sacraments, and church discipline possible.

Friendship is absolutely vital. One can belong to any church with these three marks and still never become a disciple if he or she is not open to the risk and joy of forging real friendships. We can call each other “brothers and sisters in Christ” without ever learning the real meaning of the common bond we share under our Father God and Elder Brother Jesus Christ.

That’s the hard part. In every church I have ever been a part of, with the exception of two in my childhood, I have forged no friendships at all. Lots of acquaintances, lots of people that I shared a lot in common with (music ministry, youth trips, mission trips, etc), but no friendships that fostered real discipleship to Christ. I’m lonely as can be, surrounded by people who call me “brother” but with whom I share nothing but handshakes and casual conversation once or twice a week.

I can’t say I ever really learned how to make friends, or even to be a friend.

At my age I wonder if it’s too late now.


By the Book

July 9, 2014
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We Sidekicks are not at liberty to decide how best to serve our Hero. My Hero has written a Book that He expects me to understand and put into practice.  Most Sidekicks have supervisor/mentors that have been in the service of the Hero for many years before, and who have learned to know His will and apply His teachings. They are commonly called Pastors. But once in a while a Pastor becomes enamored with all the “feel-good” fluff and excitement of being in the service of our Hero, Jesus Christ. That’s easy to do, of course. I’m guilty of that myself sometimes. But when that “feel-good” stuff becomes an end in itself, or a higher priority than faithfulness to the Hero’s Book, it’s big big trouble.

A former pastor rebuked me thusly after the umpteenth time I brought him a bunch of questions about the Book:

 

Oh, doctrine, doctrine, doctrine! You and that doctrinal stuff, Robin. Enough already! Can’t you just love the Lord?

Oh. Wow. I was stunned! Had I missed the whole point of all that bible study? Was I too concerned with my Hero’s teachings so that I missed out on just enjoying my role of serving at His side? Maybe… so I really worked hard at trying to “just love the Lord” and not being so concerned about “minutia,” as my pastor had called it. But I discovered something in the process of “trying to love the Lord” that really freaked me out:

1. – If you love the Lord, you’ll do what He says (John 14:15).
2. – You can’t do what He says if you don’t know what He says and what it means.
3. – Knowing what He says and what it means is – omygosh… DOCTRINE!

Uh-oh, how did this happen? But as it turns out, there’s no way to “just love the Lord” without studying doctrine! Dr. John Gerstner says this better than I can. Clicky here: Everyman Must be a Theologian Excerpt:

If a theologian is a person who knows God, then by reverse reasoning a person who is not a theologian does not know God. There is no shame in a layman‘s being told that he does not know carpentry, or plumbing, or medicine, or law, or teaching, or the ways of a housewife; but there surely is the greatest of shame in a layman‘s being told that he does not know God. Furthermore, there is more than shame; there is very great danger. The Scripture says that to live apart from God is death. And just as the text quoted says it is life eternal to know God and Christ, another passage in the same book says that they who do not believe in Jesus shall not see life and, furthermore, the wrath of God abides upon them: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

I was even more confused after I went back to my pastor to seek an answer to this riddle:

Robin: Pastor, how can I love the Lord without doctrine? Can you tell me about Him without referring to doctrine?
Pastor: Oh, you again… you and your book. Um, sure. Tell you about Jesus without doctrine? Well lemme see… well, He loves us, so…
Robin (interrupting): Wait, pastor, that’s doctrine! “He loves us” is doctrine! Try again, please, I really need to know.
Pastor: Oh, yeah, well, okay. Um, okay. He is building His kingdom here, and…”
Robin (interrupting again): Doctrine. Please try again? I really want to just love the Lord!
Pastor: Love is a feeling, Robin! Can’t you just feel His love and be satisfied?
Robin: Not if I truly love Him back. See here where He said… (turning to John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” – you gotta know what they are!)
Pastor (interrupting): Put that book down! It’s not a matter of doctrine! It’s a feeling! Feel the love! Let go and let God be God!

Was it just that I didn’t get it, or had my pastor just told me to put the Hero’s book aside for a good feeling? I actually got scared. I wondered if I didn’t really love the Lord. I wondered if I was guilty of being one of those “head knowledge only” Christians that were so scorned in our church.

Only one thing to do: Go straight to the Hero for His advice.  He sent me to a new mentor, and shortly thereafter He removed my former mentor from his position. Wow. Y’see? My Hero takes good care of me!