Monday, May 30, 2011

When Your Focus is on the Gnats You Miss the Camel in Your Drink

Over the years our church has been blessed by the gifts and talents of a brother who has given his life to portraying great preachers of the past as well as Bible characters. His ministry is a combination of acting and preaching. It’s quite effective, spiritually moving and very entertaining.

Once, preparing to minister in our church on a Sunday morning, he contacted another local pastor about coming to his church that evening. In previous years and in another locale/church he had ministered in that pastor’s congregation, and felt they had a good relationship.

But that pastor said, “No. We can’t use you here.” His reasoning? “You’ll be at Nags Head Church on Sunday morning. For you to then speak in our church would be confusing to our people.” Although his church and ours are essentially the same in beliefs, we choose to affiliate with a group of Baptist churches he deems to be less then orthodox. I’m sure he also does not approve of our lack of dress code and musical preferences either. So because of who WE are and that they judged us to be wrong, he and his church chose to separate themselves from our actor/evangelist brother. Too bad for them!

Secondary separation is the practice of withholding fellowship or association with another Christian – not because of sin or unorthodox beliefs - but because he/she has fellowshipped/associated with someone you deem to be wrong or apostate in some way. Usually it’s about crossing doctrinal lines. But it can also be about methodology, denominationalism or other such minors. Because it takes the idea of separation one degree beyond personal experience it is called “secondary”.

Those who hold to this level of being separated from “the world” are apt to conjure up what isn’t real or true about someone. In their imaginations they conclude that because someone ministered to a particular group or attended a meeting in a particular place where there were infidels (whether real or contrived) that they, too, have bought into the apostasy or have united with anti-Christ.

Their fear then, is that by welcoming this brother to share God’s Word with their congregation, they indirectly endorse everywhere he’s been and everyone to whom he has previously ministered. When that happens their “separation badge of honor” is taken down off their wall and replaced with “compromisers”.

It’s where we go when we choose to major on the minors. Jesus said to the legalists of His day, “Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!”

Maybe I’m wrong, but why or how can you come out and be separate from something you’ve never joined? Two years ago I preached a funeral in a Catholic church. I don’t think that “confused” any of my flock at Nags Head. At least I hope not! They know what I believe.

Of course, today, with the plethora of internet blogs and sites added to the preponderance of radio talk show hosts babbling once conspiracy theory after another; and added to that the reality that as time marches on we are drawing closer to the end of the world (that breeds its own class of left field teaching), it’s no surprise that well-intentioned (but gullible) Christians are living in fear of anything “different” and fall prey to legalistic views of separation (that can lead to a cultic isolationism) and false teachings. In fact, this is how cults are born.

Once, when Jesus’ disciples were out and about, they apparently came across someone who was doing ministry in Jesus’ name, yet wasn’t following “them”. In other words, this person they did not know wasn’t part of their group. Jesus didn’t seem concerned. In fact, His reply was, “Don’t stop him, because there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name who can soon afterwards speak evil of Me. For whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:39-40)

Let’s not be guilty of swatting at gnats when we could be in the path of a stampeding camel. Make the main thing the main thing. Let God sort out the rest.


Agnes said...

And you know what else happens? One day you wake up and find you have become a " grumpy-dump" because, by practicing 2nd degree separation, you are at risk of loosing your joy!

Rick Lawrenson said...

A "grumpy-dump". First time I've heard that one!

Agnes said...

Sure, but you probably have met and know some. They tend to populate Baptist churches, but tell anyone I said this.

Roxanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roxanne said...

Hmm. I'm wondering if 'tertiary" might even be a more accurate diagnosis. Since I can't imagine that pastor having attended any number of our worship gatherings and tried to count the number of times he would hear, "Let's see what the Bible says about....", or "It's not about me" or testimonies of changed lives and mended families. So he'd be basing his secondary disassociation on something a third party told him, maybe? I do know NHC's leadership and membership personally, and I believe them to be friends of God and people who are becoming fully-devoted followers of Jesus. That's the group I want to be standing with in eternity. I'm just saying.

Rick Lawrenson said...

This same pastor, Roxanne, told this same friend he was starting a church on the Outer Banks because the Outer Banks needed a "Bible believing church".

He would not attend our worship because of our denominational affiliation and because of our music, our casual attire and our use of multiple translations.

In other words, he and his church are right. Everyone else is left.