Thursday, August 04, 2011

Rededication? Huh?

There's one thing .. well maybe several .. about Southern Baptist practices that really bugs me. The one I want to talk about, for anybody who hasn't figured it out from the title, is "rededicating your life". And I think it really may be about more than just words.

We do play with words, you know. I've heard repentance defined as "turning around" .. changing your ways .. I've even seen preachers walking across the stage (it's not an altar, per Ed Stetzer) and suddenly stopping and going the other direction. They say that's repenting .. turning around. Well, we got into a minor brouhaha on another blog .. SBC Voices I think it was .. about the meaning of repent. According to my Strong's Concordance, the word is metanoia, which means a change of your mind. Thinking differently about something. SO, a verbal nod agreeing not to sin any more just doesn't get it, in my mind. It takes a change of mind, which brings about a change of will. And of actions.

We play the same game with "joy" and "love", too. We define joy as something like knowing God is in charge and is working things for our good, whereas the definition I see for "joy" in Strong's is Chara .. joy, gladness, or Chairo ... rejoice, be glad, rejoice exceedingly, or Charis .. joy, pleasure, delight. Now, when I look around the church and don't see a lot of that, I figure someone is going to come up with an alternate definition for that word. Well, no thanks, I'll take the real stuff, please.

Love? We define that as agape, meaning self-sacrificing love, and when we see a shortage of love in the church, we point to folks who do for others as being sacrificial, thus demonstrating love. I've done that myself, and have come to realize that love expressed through gritted teeth isn't love at all. And when I look at Strong's, again, I see Agape: "1) affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love, and 2) love feasts". That seems like the sort of love God shows, and which drives the one with that sort of love to act for the good of others.

Being old and curmudgeonly, I've decided to stop misusing words to please others' preconceived notions. That sounds too much like catering to itching ears, to me.

Which brings me around to two of my favorites to harp on: "Backsliding" and "Rededication". I think they're like lipstick on a pig.

Or, better yet, like the old line about "If you count a dog's tail as a leg, how many legs would the dog have"? Well, the answer is four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

And calling sin "backsliding" and short-circuiting the Biblical remedy for sin by a follower of Jesus, namely repentance, confession and restoration, but wrapping it in the euphemisms of backsliding and rededication certainly doesn't do the believer involved any good.

It's kind of analogous to a husband or wife allowing a parent to come between them and their spouse, in a misguided interpretation of "honoring" your parent. Allowing a parent to interfere in a relationship that God has likened to that existing between Jesus and the church, can hardly be called "honoring" that person.

Same way with us poor sinners. If one of us turns our back on God and sets our sights on sinning ... and here I've heard that state as like being in a storm on a lake, when the only way to get off the lake is to aim for one safe spot on the shore and direct yourself exclusively toward that ... then the fact is we are sinning. And the bible is clear on how to deal with that.

Repent (change your mind, letting that new mind change your actions).

Confess (call it what God calls it) to God and sometimes to one another.

Be restored (by a body which realizes that is the only action they can do and be obedient to God).

Not talking about the sorts of "missing the mark" which we all stumble over, and repent of, daily. But how about such things as folks who join a church and then don't attend for five or ten years? If we take seriously the command to prompt one another to love and good works, assembling together in the process, then wouldn't discipline in that matter be pretty well required of the church? Particularly when the Great Commission is not to "lead people to Jesus", but to "make disciples" and "teach"?

Maybe the matter isn't the backsliding believers. Maybe it's the backslidden church. Come to think of it, the only time I've seen that term used in the Bible, it refers to Israel, and the modern equivalent of that would seem to be the church.

Frankly, I doubt the churches of the SBC can do that, particularly in a "denomination" which seems to desire powerlessness over its members.

And don't gripe about our not being a "denomination" .. the SBC website uses that word about the SBC ... check the second paragraph here ... so I believe I will, too.

4 Comments:

At 9:02 AM, August 05, 2011, Blogger John Notestein said...

Thanks for the post. After reading it, I've decided to rededicate myself to reading your blog.

I grew up in a small SBC rural church, and we had 'revival services' every spring and fall. I remember a lot of literal Bible thumping, sweaty preachers with handkerchiefs, and 'altar calls' that lasted sometimes up to an hour (at least it seemed that long to a little kid like me).

The success of the evangelist was always measured by the number of 'decisions' that took place, so being that most of the attendees were professing Christians, we needed a fair share of 'rededicators'.

If no one came forward, the choir would continue to sing while we bowed our heads. If that didn't work, them just the piano would play. Only once did I see that fail, so we just stood there with heads bowed in silence. When it finally became clear the we weren't leaving until someone 'made a decision', someone would 'take one for the team' and go rededicate their life to God.

While looking back on this seems humorous, I can see this kind of mental manipulation still being played out today. I chalk it up to our obsession with getting bigger numbers, our unbelief that God and His word can infiltrate the human heart without our pounding it in, and belief that the Great Commission is about conversion rather than discipleship. Thanks for sharing.

 
At 3:16 PM, August 05, 2011, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Appreciate the comment, John.

I had a pastor out West ask me one time just how were people to repent of their sin if we didn't "hammer the point home". I told him "The same way they do if we DO "hammer the point home" .. namely, the Holy Spirit convicts them". He conceded the point, then.

Churches seem to think their job is to sell our message. It's not. Our job is to TELL: the Holy Spirit will convict according to Jesus' promise and His choice. The result of not doing that may be the disappearance of 2/3 of the folks that we enroll our way.

 
At 6:54 PM, August 07, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob,
Good post.
Probably every preacher wants a response from the congregation.
It seems ‘walking the isle for salvation’ has become a thing of the past, and re-dedications are few and far between. I think the latest/newest is the urging to ‘come down’ and pray for some situation.

In fact, some preaching never starts until someone prays as a volunteer.
I’ve seen time drag on and on in silence until (as Notestein said) “someone would ‘take one for the team’.
Usually it would be the same people. (It was like casting a vote for the preacher.)

I believe the ultimate desire for a response was a preacher crying with his hands over his face. When he got control of his emotions, he explained no one had said ‘Amen’.
Rex

 
At 3:57 PM, August 08, 2011, Blogger Aussie John said...

Bob,

I am so blessed to see a fellow "old-timer" recognizing the reality of which you speak.

I pray that your words will wake a few up!

 

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