Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Healthy Church: No Pets Allowed!

Just the other morning I looked out the kitchen window to see an amazing sight. A very large gray fox had just emerged from the forest and proceeded to casually walk down the snowy path in front of our house, most likely looking for some breakfast. This scene took me back to childhood when I often accompanied my uncle fox hunting all over eastern North Carolina. This was an adventure for me. No guns were used because the art of the hunt was the training of the dogs who took part in the hunt.

The most peculiar thing about the dogs – and my grandfather never failed to remind us – was that they were not pets, and he did not want us to make them into pets. They were bred and trained for the hunt and nothing else. Like wild animals there were
alpha males and females among them yet they were tame enough for the likes of me. These dogs were in-fact so well trained that if they came upon a deer or rabbit during the hunt just one specific voice command would signal them to abandon that chase and return to tracking the fox.

To the dismay of many Christian hunters there are no dogs allowed in the average church, but unfortunately there are some very territorial pets to be found. The pets that I allude to are not animals but pet doctrines. Don’t misunderstand me here. Doctrines are important and form essential foundations for our lives. They have an intended purpose, but that purpose is not to become pets.

A doctrine becomes a pet when it becomes a favorite doctrine taking prominence over all other truths. Even domesticated pets become alpha males, and pet doctrines become the alpha doctrine of the senior leader, church or denomination. They become preeminent, and adhering to them to the very letter becomes the basis of acceptance over all else.

A doctrine also becomes a pet when it is seen as the catch-all solution to all problems. This usually happens when a leader receives a tangible spiritual benefit from a certain teaching or the influence of another leader’s ministry. This could be a healing, deliverance in some area or even a restored marriage. While being well intended it is also short-sighted to think that what we personally benefited from is what everyone else needs at a given moment. I am reminded here of the man who became a dietician because a change in diet radically improved his life, or my favorite, some chiropractors who believe that all diseases can be remedied by proper alignment of the spine.

The worst example is when an immature church member or even church leader devotes enormous time to studying a particular biblical truth. This is fine, but as soon as they come to a clear understanding of this truth – if indeed they are correct – they turn around and require that all others come into quick compliance to their position without inquiry. They fail to afford to others the same patience and time that they afforded to themselves in seeking out these truths. This is particularly divisive, and brings great harm to the church.

Entire movements can rise and fall over these pets, and millions of lost people enter into a godless eternity because churches are too busy grooming their pets and entering them into competitions with the pets of other churches to even notice.

God’s truths, as used by us, have to line up with God’s purposes.

…until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Eph 4:13-16

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