The Gospel Affects Everything

Luke Holmes is looking for a church. (Incidentally, he has moved to Sherman, which means there are now a grand total of TWO bloggers here!)

Luke writes

Do I put up with the 40 Days of purpose, the legality, the business meeting and committees? Where is the line? Which doctrines are essential and which are not? Most people will say as long as the true gospel is being preached. But I say that everything, I repeat everything, a church does affects the gospel. From the obvious things like music and preaching, to budgets, nursery, sunday school, and meetings. I will be honest. I want a perfect church. A church that is biblical in everthing that it does.

(emphasis added)

Worded another way, the gospel affects everything we do, particularly when we come together as a body. Or at least, it ought to.

I’ve been reading No Place For Truth by David Wells. His contention is that we modern evanglicals have pigeonholed theology such that it does not significantly affect how we “do church”. It’s very similar to the argument(s) in The Coming Evangelical Crisis that we have, practically speaking, abandoned sola scriptura.

Theology is everything. Non-theological types are quick to assert that the practical is more important than the theoretical. I take issue with that, but there is an important corollary that is true: If your beliefs aren’t manifested in your life, your beliefs are worthless. I’d argue that they aren’t real beliefs. If I genuinely believe something, then as a rational creature I will adjust my worldview and behavior to account for it.

For instance, your theology about the nature of an unregenerate man will dictate your approach to evangelism. Is there any such thing as a “seeker”? Will an unregenerate man be attracted to the gospel? Is he capable of understanding it? What draws a man to hear the preaching of the word? Is it the speaker’s ability? If the speaker is a celebrity, does that help?

Our theology should inform our worship services. What is the point of coming together for worship? What is worship? Do we sing songs and do things so we felt “led into the presence of God”? Or is the intent to magnify and honor God? What is Sunday corporate worship all about, anyway? What are we here to do?

If worship is about me and how I feel, then that dictates one style of worship. It would require us to be very intentional about eliminating all potential disruptions and distractions. Especially kids. They would go to “children’s church” where teachers could more effectively connect and communicate with them.

On the other hand, if worship is better understood as covenant renewal, then it’s vitally important that we gather corporately – all the members of the covenant community. Elderly saints in wheelchairs using breathers, and younger saints-in-training wiggling and whispering, are all part of the body and should be there.

Certainly our theology about the kingdom of God and the world, not to mention our eschatology, should inform what we think and do when it comes to interacting with the world. Is the world hopelessly lost, and are all attempts at improving it simply polishing the brass on the Titanic? Should I try to engage the world and positively influence it? Do I live a separate, distinct, sanctified, counter-cultural life? My theology must answer those questions. The way I live will demonstrate my theology, whether or not it lines up with what I think I think or what I say I think. It will show what I really think.

What is our theology about the larger body of Christ, the catholic church? How closely are we connected with it? These are theological questions. The answers will help us decide whether we do things like recite creeds, subscribe to one or more historical confessions of faith, and maybe even what version of the Bible we use. If we are tightly connected to a larger contemporarly and historic body, then it is important that we manifest that connection even at the expense of our own interests. So we might choose to use the KJV simple because it is, and has been, widely used in the English speaking world. We would highly value ecumenical councils and the creeds they produced, even if they imperfectly align with our opinions. But if we are only loosely connected with the local and catholic church, then we are free to accept or reject according to our local or individual opinions and tastes.

Several of these theological issues touch on what the church thinks about families. Is it proper to have youth groups and youth ministers? Does a family function generally as a single entity in the Lord’s work, or are we generally individuals? Am I serving God best by catechizing my children and loving my wife, or by serving on a civic board, or by working in a soup kitchen? How much of my time should be spent at church vs at home?

These are all theological questions at their core.

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6 Responses to The Gospel Affects Everything

  1. Bill says:

    So, what are the answers?

    Seriously, you ask good questions – what do you think about these?

  2. Robert says:

    Well, those were more examples than specific things to discuss.

    And to be honest, my theology is in flux at least at the points it touches questions like those. E.g., my slide from dispensation premillenialism to postmillenialism. So I’m not sure how good a job I’d do presenting or defending a particular point of view.

    But that’s not a satisfying answer, and it’s not any fun either. So…


    I believe the Bible teaches that the gospel stands or falls on its own. It is the aroma of life to those who will be saved, and the aroma of death to those who are perishing. Nobody will be in hell because an outreach event didn’t have a dynamic and popular enough speaker with an emotional enough testimony.

    The only reason an unregenerate man would be genuinely attracted to the gospel, is because God is effectively drawing him. Unless God opens his heart and mind, he can’t understand or accept the true gospel. And if God does open his mind and heart, he _will_ come to faith.


    I believe that worship is basically a covenant renewal. That’s why the Lord’s Supper is such a signficant recurring sacrament (or ordinance, as you prefer). It’s a fellowship meal with our Lord, symbolizing His death that allows our relationship to Him and with one another to begin with. That means it is vitally important for God’s people to come together.

    That’s not the exclusive purpose, of course. We do other things – teach and encourage each other, etc. But those are what we do. A family is what we are. I’m afraid we often confuse the two. The church of God is not a Bible study group, not a prayer group, not a mission society, not a charity. We do all those things, but what we are is a family.

    I think we’ve exchanged the organic Biblical model – which describes us as a family, or a body, or a bride – for a good modern capitalist American business model. Replete wth mission statements, marketing, employees, strategies, consultants, and the works.

    I think we’d do better to think of ourselves as a family, and corporate worship as something along the lines of Thanksgiving dinner. We’re there to be together. We accept one another because of our relationship to one another (because of our relationship to God), not because of any other reason.

    Interaction with the World

    Out of the three options I presented, I would say we live set apart, distinct, counter-cultural lives. But I’m not sure how to explain this one more fully. Sorry.

    The Church

    I’m starting to become more aware of the rest of the body of Christ. The saints who have gone before, the others who are here now, and those who will come afterwards. This could be a huge post in its own right.


    I think my primary mission field is my wife, kids, descendants, and my extended family. And if I can’t do anything else to convert the heathen, I’ll just try to outbreed them.

    I’m not a big fan of men’s ministries, women’s ministries, and youth ministries. I’m not totally against them, just not a big fan. There are enough things that pull families apart in the world; if any institution is going to pull them back together it ought to be the church. So, for example, instead of a ministry to youth, I’d rather see a ministry to the parents of youth. (I know there are youth whose parents don’t go to church, but it’s just an example). The Bible gives me two unaviodable responsibilities – raise godly children, and sanctify my wife.

    These will probably be full posts later. I got a bunch of books for Christmas and some of them touch on questions like these.

  3. Barry says:

    True story told by a pastor at my church. Church phone rings…..

    [Business Manager]: “GoodafternoonCrossroadsBibleChurchthisisKim.” (she tends to talk pretty fast being from Tennessee and all)

    [Caller]: “Yes. Hello. I was wondering if you could tell me if your church is currently going through 40 Days of Purpose.”

    [Business Manager]: “No, I’m sorry. We’re actually going through the book of James.”

    [Caller]: “Could you tell me if you plan on going through 40 Days of Purpose any time soon?”

    [Business Manager]: “I don’t think that’s in our plans. Our senior pastor teaches directly from the Bible each week.”

    [Caller]: “Finally! That’s great! What time are your services on Sundays?”


  4. Karl Thienes says:

    The Orthodox have a saying for this:

    “lex credendi, lex orandi”

    Latin for “The rule of faith is the rule of prayer.” In other words, what you believe is what you pray and vice versa. Theology and praxis are one and need to be.

    Luke Holmes will never find the perfect Church. But he can find one whose theology, worship, liturgy, and teaching are a unifed whole….

  5. Chris P. says:

    Good points indeed. I was reading a bit on praxy vs. doxy and found the whole debate rather pointless. James says faith without works is dead,i.e. not faith at all, and so it is. This has been my biggest contention with all the liberal and emergent theologies. Not that we don’t have praxis, but we have faulty doxy,i.e. foundations. In 1 Cor 3, Paul is talking about building on the proper foundation (doxy)in v.11 and in v.12-15 he is talking about praxis. So we can make mistakes in our doing and still have salvation
    Matthew 7:24-27 through the words of Christ Himself shows us that while both houses are built with the same materials,praxis again. The one built on the sand falls, while the one built on the Rock stands. It is not what we do that proves us to be His people, it is what we believe that proves our works to be His, and only His people can do His works. Good works do not necessarily equal God’s works. Eph 2:8-10 and Romans 4:1-5,23-25. Karl is right theology and praxis are one. We had better have the right theology. Robert is right in that all our practice is theological essence.
    Robert it is so good to see you back at it.

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