Monday, April 29, 2019

Strong Church/Corinth

Strong Church/Weak Church 6

Note: From time to time I share my blog with other like-minded men. It is my little way of encouraging good writing in the independent Baptist orbit. In that spirit, I have asked Stephen King to pen the Corinth portion of this blog series. Pastor King ministers at the Northstar Baptist Church in Duluth, Minnesota. He is a younger man, a thoughtful man, and a good, clear writer. 


The Macedonian Call brought Paul across the Aegean Sea to Macedonia and Greece. Almost from the beginning, however, he was beset with persecution, mostly from hostile Jewish nonbelievers. He journeyed from city to city, preaching and experiencing great persecution. But when he arrived in Corinth, God commanded him to stay, and assured him in Acts 18:10 that he would be free from hurt. A church was started. Today we know that church mostly for its weaknesses. However, it also had a number of strengths.

1. They were a large church.

Acts 18:9-10 Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.

Size is not everything, but it is nice.

The Corinthian church was going to be a big church from the beginning. God commanded Paul to spend considerable time in Corinth and promised him physical safety due to the much people that God had in the city. The clear implication is that the church would grow quickly and have considerable size.

Size has its problems, and the church at Corinth certainly had its share. But size has its blessings, too. Proverbs 14:4 says, Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. There are tremendous opportunities for churches to leverage their size into outreach and discipleship. Cities can truly be saturated with the Gospel both by going door-to-door and by using other forms of engagement. Special days in which many visitors are invited to hear the Gospel can be executed with great quality. Large churches have the resources to excel in presentation and design, a relevant factor in today’s high-tech age. And the large church can be a visible and positive influence on its community. One example: A police officer in the Antelope Valley of California was killed in the line of duty. Lancaster Baptist Church had the biggest indoor gathering space in the community and was asked to host the funeral. It agreed, on condition that its pastor would preach the message. Thousands of people from all over the state, including law enforcement, media members, politicians, and the governor of California, were present. All heard a clear presentation of the Gospel. All because the local church in the community was large.

2. They were a giving church.

1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.

In corresponding with Paul, the Corinthian believers inquired about the process of giving. And, in Paul’s follow-up, we see that they did.

2 Corinthians 1:11 Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

Paul expresses gratitude to the Corinthians for their giving. Troubled though they were, they gave generously to help a servant of Christ.

A church of size and resources ought to be a giving church, and for all of its failings the church at Corinth desired to be a giving church and followed through on that desire. They were not, as a whole, mature. However, giving is not something that needs to wait for maturity, any more than it needs to wait for a believer to be wealthy.  Anyone can give.

The final two characteristics are related, and we will address them together.

3. They were teachable

Acts 18:11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

The Corinthian church sat under Paul’s learning. And, later, they asked him questions.

1 Corinthians is a scalding correction of serious problems in the church, but it is also a response to an inquiry sent by the Corinthian believers. They asked questions, and Paul answered them. In chapter seven the question was about marriage; in chapter eight the question was about food offered to idols; in chapter twelve the question was about spiritual gifts; and in chapter sixteen the question was about giving. In each case, the Corinthians asked sincerely for help from Paul to answer their questions. They wanted to learn. They were teachable.

We also know that they were teachable because of the next point, which goes with it:

4. They were repentant

2 Corinthians 7:6-11 Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more. For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

They received a stern letter of correction in 1 Corinthians. Strong and harsh. And their response was not just anguish, but repentance. Change.

The Corinthian church was both teachable and repentant. That is a crucial combination. They were not prideful, insisting that they never did anything wrong. And they were not ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7) either.

Teachability, in a Christian, is the disposition to be willingly confronted with truths in the Bible that conflict with one’s own life or beliefs, understand those truths, and agree with them. Repentance is a change of mind leading to a change of life. These characteristics cooperate with each other to produce genuine, transformative life change in a Christian.

The Corinthian church had many problems, examination of which is forthcoming in detail. But they were teachable and genuinely repentant, and as a result, they were an excellent testimony of God’s Grace.

Several years ago, a man we will call Reggie walked into our church with his wife and two children, just days after concluding a prison term. He professed that he had been saved early in this incarceration and desired to grow. I met with him over lunch, and it was clear that his direction was genuine. However, he had a long way to go. His family background was extremely troubled, and he knew more about gang life than being a father. He had never held a consistent job. He did not know what it meant to be a good husband and he had residual issues with anger and trust that were challenges in his marriage. And, due to the large number of ministries in the prison system, he had been exposed to a number of false doctrines that left him very confused. But he had two things going for him: He was a new creature in Christ, and he was teachable.

Over months and years we spent time together in the Word of God. He had questions about resolving conflict in marriage, about false doctrines, about job and money issues. In each case the principles of the Bible were absorbed and adopted as his own. When he learned that the Bible disagreed with him, he changed.

Reggie was not a finished product when he walked in our door. But he was teachable, and he was repentant. And now he is a man of God who is a soul-winner, a gainfully employed husband and father of a growing family, a man of God, and a pillar of our church.

There are a couple of challenges that we must take from this: First, we must be teachable. Those who read blogs such as this are likely, for the most part, reasonably mature as Christians. There is a danger in this, that we may believe we either know everything we need to know, or never sin in a way that requires repentance. Just because the Corinthian church was rough around the edges does not mean that a well-sanded plank does not need to be touched up from time to time.

Second, God led Paul to cultivate the teachability of the Corinthian church by investing a lot of time in them. He spent eighteen months of his life with the church as it was planted and grew, and wrote voluminously to guide them further. And when they received correction, they responded. The Corinthian church did not just receive extensive correction because they were problematic; they received extensive correction because they were willing to learn and repent of those problems.

When those of us who are more mature as Christians encounter someone who shows a teachable and repentant spirit, we should go to great lengths to engage and teach them. A rough Christian who is teachable and repentant has greater potential for God to use them than a refined Christians who knows everything and is never wrong. When we disciple such a rough-edged Christian, it will take time and effort and sacrifice, but we are tilling fertile ground. The fruit of that effort will be bountiful.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Weak Church/Antioch

Strong Church/Weak Church 5

          Last week, we examined the church at Antioch and discovered that it had a veritable plethora of strengths as described in the Bible. But it was not without flaws. In laying out all the passages that discuss the Antiochian church, one weakness in particular stood out to me, namely this: they allowed the weaknesses of a more influential church to influence them negatively.
          When we examined the church at Jerusalem, the first and most influential church in the early period, we saw that one of its weaknesses was an ethnically based division, racism, if you will. It was at the heart of the divisiveness that necessitated the first deacon selection. But that’s not all. We can see that this exclusionary attitude – the church as a Jewish institution only – was explicitly passed on to other churches around them.

Acts 11:19–20
19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.
20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.

          We see in the above passage a curious mix. There are those who are preaching unto the Jews only, but there are others who are also speaking of Christ to the Grecians. The resulting church at Antioch was certainly not entirely racist in this respect, but it did have racist strains in it, and those strains evidenced themselves.

Galatians 2:11–13
11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.

          The problem here as I see it, is not just ethnically based exclusion, though that is bad enough. It is a systemic failure, a corporate abdication of the everlasting necessity of spiritual discernment. Not coincidentally, it manifested itself when the preacher (Peter) from the big church (Jerusalem) came to spread his influence.
          I have no desire to leave the wrong impression. Big churches are not bad by virtue of being big, anymore than little churches are bad by virtue of being little – though there are more than enough immature Christians on either end of the spectrum who view it so. Big churches have strengths, as we discussed when looking at Jerusalem, but for all that they are not inherently better or worse. A church, all churches, no matter their size, are to be measured by the same stick: their likeness to Jesus Christ.
          Having said that, it is also undeniably true that larger churches have larger everything – budgets, ministries, buildings, reputations, and influence. Think of a rock thrown into a pond, the larger the rock, the larger the ripples. As those ripples spread outward in a concentric circle, they will impact everything within their path. So it is with larger churches; as their ministries reach out into other local churches in their Jerusalem, their Judaea, their Samaria, and their world, their influence touches the smaller churches. The entire point of this post is that this touch may be for either good or ill, and it is the task of the local church to ensure that only the former gets through.
          Brethren, we cannot check our brain at the door for any man, any church, any paper, any fellowship, or any seminary. Even the external ministries that we find most similar to us in spirit and philosophy must be routinely examined. Their doctrine and practice must constantly be put to the scriptural test, especially when that doctrine and practice touch our own church.
          External influences are often very helpful, but do not accept any man whole cloth. Including the one writing what you are reading this very moment.
          Prove all things; hold fast that which is good (I Thessalonians 5.21).

Monday, April 15, 2019

Strong Church/Antioch

Strong Church/Weak Church 4

          We move on now to the second church in our series examining what we can learn from local churches in the Bible. Today we will be discussing the strengths of the church at Antioch.
          The ruins of Antioch sit about 300 miles north of Jerusalem, sixteen miles inland
The theater at Antioch
from the Mediterranean Sea, in modern day Turkey. No city other than Jerusalem is more closely connected with the history of the Early Church. One of the first seven deacons was from Antioch (Acts 6.5). Some of the Christians who left Jerusalem during persecution traveled to Antioch and preached there (Acts 11.19). Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were sent from this church to Jerusalem with charity as a result (Acts 11.30). Early false teachers went from Jerusalem to Antioch asserting that you had to be circumcised in order to be saved (Acts 15.1). It was at Antioch that Paul confronted Peter publicly for being hypocritical in the matter of eating with the Gentiles (Galatians 1.11-12). Antioch was the first majority Gentile church (Acts 11.20-21). It was here the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11.26), and here Paul preached his first sermon (Acts 11.26). In fact, both of Paul’s first and second missionary journeys began and ended in this church, and his third missionary church launched from here before ending in his imprisonment in Rome.
          Antioch’s culture was heavily influenced by Greece, being founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals in 300 BC. By the time of the book of Acts, it had grown to be a very prosperous city. Situated along a deep river slightly inland of the Mediterranean, trade flourished. Nestled beneath the mountains and partly on the shore and partly on an island, it was by this time a typical Roman city – aqueducts, fountains, columns, baths, excellent roads, etc. It was probably the third most important Roman city in Paul’s lifetime ranking just behind Rome and Alexandria. It contained approximately 500,000 people. Chrysostom, one of the Early Church fathers, died there in AD 407. His testimony was that in his day Antioch contained about 100,000 Christians. The geographical location, however, was prone to earthquakes and prey to raiders with the dissolution of the Roman Empire. It gradually declined through the early Dark Ages. By the high Middle Ages, the river had so filled with silt, ships could no longer navigate it. It thus declined even further. The early Crusades wreaked additional havoc on it with a nine-month siege. Today, it exists as an archaeological ruin.
          As I traced the story through the Word of God I found six specific strengths. The first, and most obvious one that jumps out at you, is that they were a Christ-like group of peopleAnd the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch (Acts 11.26).
In the original language Christian is Χριστιανός (Christianos), a follower of Christ. Notice here they did not call themselves followers of Christ; this was not a self-appointed complimentary appellation. It was foisted upon them by outsiders. There is only one reason for such a thing, namely, they had visibly and genuinely patterned themselves after their God.
I have noticed over the years that my enemies, few that they are, have little care for my hurt feelings, and even less worry that they might damage our relationship. Because of that, I have discovered that unless they are out and out-lying, their characterizations of me often have a brutal truth to them. They do not hold back to spare me. In so doing, they do me a marvelous good turn. They tell me the truth about myself. In this instance, the unvarnished truth was that this church was full of people who were rather similar to Jesus. What a wonderful compliment they thus accidentally engendered.
Harriet Myers
In October of 2005, President George W. Bush nominated his White House counsel, a lady named Harriet Myers, to replace Sandra Day O’Conner on the Supreme Court. She ended up withdrawing herself from nomination after bipartisan opposition, but in the course of the discussion I read a write-up on her in some magazine or other. In that write-up, the journalist was reporting on his interviews with her associates, including some of her coworkers in a Texas law firm. Reportedly, Harriet Myers was a born again Christian and the journalist wanted to explore how such a radical creature was received by her coworkers. I will never forget their response. To a man, they denied knowing she was a Christian at all. In other words, Harriet Myers coworkers of nearly two decades standing had no idea she was a follower of Christ. May I be so bold as to say that she was not, then? The people that surround us should have no hesitation in labeling us Christ followers. It should flow from our dress, our speech, our choices, and our priorities. It should seep from our very pores. We are to be followers of Jesus. Antioch was, to their everlasting credit.
The second strength I see is that the church at Antioch was ethnically diverse. Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul (Acts 13.1). Simeon was a black man from Africa. Lucius was a Greek from Libya. In addition, they had the normal compliment of Jews and numerous other species of Gentiles.
We saw this as a weakness in the Jerusalem church. Here, it has become a strength. And it should be a strength. God loves the entire world. If our Christianity is to truly reflect Him, we too, will love the entire world. Beloved, a prejudiced, segregated Christianity is a high-jacked Christianity unworthy of the name it bears.
The third strength I see in Antioch was that they were a missions minded church.

Acts 13:1–4
1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.  

          The early missions’ movement was not started in Jerusalem. That church wanted to stay put, and had to be hassled out via persecution before it would send out laborers. No, the idea of launching out and planting churches was birthed in Antioch, not Jerusalem. As I mentioned above, all three of Paul’s missionary journeys started there, and the first two ended there.
          Earlier in Acts we find this wondrous passage: But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Loosely defined, that is city, region, region close by everyone avoided, and world. A church that is only reaching its own area is an unscriptural church. A church that is neglecting the uncomfortable neighborhoods around it is an unscriptural church. A church that only gives to missions but does practically zero local evangelism is an unscriptural church. All of these are required. And we find all of these wondrously in Antioch.
          Fourth, we notice that they were a giving church.

Acts 11:27–30
27 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.
28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.
29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:
30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
          When they heard of the need, they gave to meet it. This is the pattern already established by the Jerusalem church, giving what you have to meet others’ needs. The typical church does not have the capability to entirely meet every financial need that comes across its path, but it can certainly be a part of the solution. At our church we routinely give to the saints’ needs via a benevolence fund, the occasional disaster relief offering, a yearly hunger offering for those less fortunate, offerings to support pregnancy centers and adoption agencies, and a Future Fund to provide capital improvements for the needs of the next generation. Giving is not a spiritual gift but it is a spiritual grace, and one every Christian, and thus every church should be growing in.
          Fifth, the Antioch church loved preaching.
          They were birthed in preaching.

Acts 11:19–20
19 Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.
20 And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.

          They welcomed preaching and teaching.

Acts 11:26
26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.

          Their assembly included numerous preachers.

Acts 13:1
1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

          They heard numerous preachers.

Acts 15:35
35 Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.

          All other things being equal, the stronger a church is the greater the appetite it will have for preaching. It will schedule more services rather than less, and they will be better attended than a weaker church. In those services, there will be a great emphasis placed on preaching, and they will often run longer compared to the length of the services in the average church. Guest preachers will constantly be brought in. Extra services will be scheduled now and again. Most importantly, the people will be able to handle hard preaching with the gracious humility of self-examination. In short, the strong Christian views preaching like a delicious meal – he wants as much of it as often and in as large of portions as he can get it.
          Lastly, we notice this: they were sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them (Acts 13.2).
          God leads each church like He leads each person – individually. That individual leading is always kept within the bounds of Scripture, but it is still individual. Your church is different than mine, and rightly so. Your ministries reflect a different emphasis. Your budget is allocated according to differing priorities. Your worker training program looks different. Your vision for the future is different. God has some things He desires every church to do and to be but there are also some things that He desires for each individual church uniquely. As a church, learning to develop a sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit in such matters is a true strength.
          Without a doubt, Antioch was a strong church, but it was not a perfect church. It did not have many weaknesses, but it did have at least one that I can find. We will look at it next week. See you then.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Weak Church/Jerusalem

Strong Church/Weak Church 3

          Last week, we saw that the church at Jerusalem had some wonderful strengths, but it certainly was not a perfect church. What does Scripture reveal about its weaknesses and what might that teach us about our own church?
          The first weakness I see in Jerusalem is that it was a big church.
          “Wait a minute, Tom. Didn’t you say last week that was a strength?”
          I did. It is also a weakness. Why? Well, a big church is usually so exciting that no one wants to leave it. They want to stay right there, enjoy the high-class music and high-quality preaching. They want the programs and schools for their kids. They want the cachet that comes from being part of the biggest, the greatest, the best church since Pentecost.
          In college, I used to call this the gold-coat ministry. Some guy was called to the ministry and headed off to Bible college. While there he met a beautiful gal and started having children. His graduation date slipped further away, or perhaps arrived and then passed without him getting a position in the ministry. Perhaps he got into a little debt, or his wife had some health trouble. Before you know it, his dreams of the pastorate had vanished, and he settled for being one of a hundred other ushers wearing gold coats and taking the offering on a Sunday.
          I am not trying to criticize ushers, and I realize there are many contributing factors that enter into a man’s decision not to enter the pastoral ministry. But the simple truth is, big churches all too often become magnets, pulling people away from smaller church and then never letting them go. I am not saying that is their intention, but it is often their effect.
          God, in His sovereign wisdom, chose to allow persecution to come to that big church in Jerusalem and the context shows us the direct positive consequence. And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles (Acts 8.1). As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word (Acts 8.3-4). The earthly result of this scattering-induced preaching, is that Christianity went from being a small, geographically centered, ethnically limited, backwater sect to a Roman Empire wide religion. Why is it that we do not know how so many of the churches in the New Testament started? Because they started themselves. Men fled Jerusalem, fled Palestine, and as the Christian Diaspora traced the lines of the Jewish Diaspora, churches sprang up everywhere.
          We have this American mindset that seems to say God wants all ministries to grow, to thrive as we see it. But God wanted John the Baptist’s ministry to decrease, and John understood that. That is the direct context of his famous statement, He must increase but I must decrease (John 3.30). God chose to break up the only megachurch in the Bible because He knew the gospel would spread as a result. A numerically growing church or a church of substantial size is a blessing, certainly, but sometimes the blessing comes when it shrinks. We seem to forget that in our all too often narrow-minded parochialism.
          The second weakness at Jerusalem was also connected to one of their strengths. You will remember I said that they were thoughtful of each other’s needs. It is seen in how generous they were with each other. But such giving, as it wonderfully became the culture of their church, produced a corresponding weakness. Some gave for the wrong reason.

          I will not here belabor the story of Ananias and Sapphira found in Acts 5, but I will ask you to note it. They gave generously, even sacrificially, but they did so for the wrong reason.
          If there are people in your church giving in order to impress others, that is a weakness. If there are people in your church giving in order to soothe their conscience regarding some unknown-to-everyone-else sin, that is a weakness. If there are people in your church giving in order to win people to their side, or to build a power base useful in church politics, that is a weakness. We are to give because God told us to. We are to give because we want to invest in eternity. We are to give because it helps people and advances the Lord’s work. In short, we are to give with the right motive.
          God is at least as interested in motive as He is in action. We see that from one end of Scripture to the other. Giving done in pride is abhorrent to Him, as is witnessing, parenting, praying, preaching, or a thousand other things. Why my people do what they do can be a tremendous weakness all the while it looks like my church has a great strength.
          The third weakness I see in Jerusalem is that they lost their unity due to ethnic strife and division. And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration (Acts 6.1). This would go on to become an unhealthy pattern in the early churches. It was rooted in the Jewish religiously motivated racism endemic in their culture. One rabbi of Jesus’ era took a bath every time he came home from the market in case he had touched something previously handled by a Gentile. The Sadducees used to mock the Pharisees saying soon they would soon need to wash the rays of the sun since it shone on the Gentiles also.
          Paul’s method of church planting was brutally efficient. He would enter a city, find the synagogue or place of prayer, and take advantage of the open service concept to stand and argue that Jesus was the Christ. After doing this for a few months he would split the synagogue, gather his converts, and start a church. In so doing, he began with a core group that was immediately rather mature. They were dedicated to their religion, knew their Bibles, and had a proven life-long willingness to buck the societal trends of the day. But racism was baked in with all the rest of that, and Paul had to deal with it repeatedly in his epistles. The churches, started organically by the Jewish believers scattered via persecution from Jerusalem, would have had the same basic problem.
          We dare not, however, sit secure in our twenty-first century aplomb and look down our noses at the first century church. I have read too much of our recent history to feel we have won this battle. Indeed, after including a chapter about racism in Schizophrenic I have received emails and messages from many people regarding the racism still prevalent in our churches today. When we treat others differently on the basis of their ethnicity we infringe upon their basic humanity, and when we bring that into God’s house we violate all that He intends His church to be.
          Beloved, do be welcoming to all those who walk into the doors of your assembly, from wherever they hail, however they got there, and whatever they look like. If Jesus died for them like He died for me, that ought to be good enough for all of us.
          I cannot write it any more clearly than Paul did in Ephesians 2. I leave you with his words and ask you to ponder them.

Ephesians 2:13–19

13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;