An Open Letter to Evangelicals, Christ-Followers/Non-Denominationals

Dear Evangelicals, Christ-followers, and non-denominationals,

I love you and I care about you. Honestly, your zeal for missions and sharing the faith makes me envy your non-profits and ability to spread the word of Christ.

But we need to talk. Your aversion to labels is seriously making it hard to communicate. Some of you call yourselves Christian, but that’s pretty broad and there’s plenty of people who “call themselves Christian” but don’t really live it out, so many try to distinguish themselves from that. Some of you call yourselves Evangelicals, but most in the pews don’t know what that means. Some are “non-denominational,” which indicates a unique, Acts-style version of Christianity, even though I can predict your architecture, sermon length, type of grape juice served at communion, and relevant music (kind of like a denomination). Even more ubiquitous is the claim of “Christ-follower,” though though few Mormons, Muslims, or any Christian would say he/she is not a Christ-follower.

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Titles are important, and Catholics are not immune from shifting names (some call themselves “evangelical Catholics” or “devout Catholics” rather than simply “Catholics.”) Still, I can’t help but think the constant schisms of Protestantism has caused the constant desire for something new and fresh (who’s signing up to be a Primitive Baptist?), leading to the anarchy of post-denominationalism and coming books like Jefferson Bethke’s Jesus < Religion.

Can we just agree on calling you something? I know you don’t like labels, but it’s making blogging difficult.

Thanks,

Anthony

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21 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Evangelicals, Christ-Followers/Non-Denominationals

  1. IMHO, many “Christians” have made a decision that no institution or regulatory hierarchy is due their allegiance. For me, I refuse to bow my conscience to a society of religious demagogues. To fulfill your immature request is like giving credence to Rodney King’s famous quote: “Can’t we all just get along?” Labels are good if they truly define the individual or groups (which in this era of “ME” lends itself to a relativism (unfortunately) ; however, few who can think and analyze Catholicism find it a morass and a matrix which swallows its patrons in the labyrinth of law, tradition, predefined biblical interpretation, and an slew of dogmas that border on superstition. Schism is what Protestants are to you but church splits are vital to evangelism at times. Even the RCC splits it power and privilege within its own ranks in the various Orders and pursuits of its clandestine life behind the cloistered walls of Vatican City.

    Now, dear Pope Francis is a model and I am confident a godly man. Foot washing Popes make good copy but it only cleanses the surface dirt while the deep scales of dermis are permeated with imbedded filth. Sell the image — gain the credibility. Much like a magician — get the audience to look the other way while the trick is done. The word is MISDIRECTION.

    You left Southern and I respect your choice. But the RCC will use you as a poster boy until you see beyond the veil. Soon, if I am correct, you will wed. Amen to you. It will be interesting to see if you still hold to such a vision of Home Sweet Rome after a year of marriage. It will be interesting to see if the church can usurp your wife’s needs, desires, wants, goals, family, etc. It will be interesting if you are even posting in 6 months with any regularity and with the fervor that so flows from your soul. Peter said it best: “….pass your time of exile in fear [of the Lord]….” 1 Peter 1:17, not in fear of the religious regulators. Be well and seek first the kingdom of God.

      • dt2929: I have a few questions for you about your response. If you substitute the word Jesus for church in your last paragraph is it the same thing? Jesus gave us many commands, many hard commands. The RCC is following his commands: 1. Feed my sheep 2. Feed my lambs 3. do this in memory of me. 4. Go make disciples 5. call sinners to repent (in order for sinners to repent there has to be sin, sin by definition is a separation from God not by going with the majority opinion) 6. Come after me … set own interests aside … take up a cross … and follow me 7. Be Humble (see Pope Francis showing the world) 8. Try to enter the narrow gate (follow rules, humbly) 8. Become a servant and slave to all.

        Marriage is a humbling experience, Marriage is about three people (husband, wife and God) the Church is ursurping any wants desires or needs but is fullfilling God desire, wants and needs, it is about sacrifice not what I want or my wife wants. Peter’s words are ok, but Jesus’ are much more powerful.

    • Hi there, Catholic convert here – married almost six years and more Catholic than ever! Catholics elevate marriage to a sacrament and hold the institution in very high esteem. Your assertions about what the Church will “do” to a marriage strike me as supremely bizarre, to put it mildly.

      • @The Recovered Catholic – Is the above comment addressed to me (dt2929) or is it a mix of Anthony’s post and my reply? Allow me to clarify a point or two: Your QUOTE: ” Your assertions about what the Church will “do” to a marriage strike me as supremely bizarre, to put it mildly.” END QUOTE. Marriage does not subjugate a couple to the church’s dominion so as to not challenge or modify their stance on anything. Consider the height of religious piety and hypocrisy of the Pelosi’s, Biden’s, Kennedy’s, et al. Most RCC members do not abide by the intrusive nature of “sacraments”, as you pontificate. Consider the controversial world of birth control. Is it not the choice of a couple and not the rule of procreation designed by celibate (maybe) hierarchy. The truth in that matter anyway is that without the free birth mantra, the RCC would become troubled because infant sprinkling of infants is the major way to produce converts. If they had to actually have something to offer by way of faith justified in the blood of Christ ONLY, the Catholic Church would be decimated. The New Evangelization is a fight for the ignorant to ponder the pomp and circumstance of a supposedly ancient rite (Histories are written or revised by the ones in power). So, let the Church tell you what to do in your private affairs — because these folks are blind. As to my main point previously, read Ephesians 5 without the Magisterium’s intrusion and see for yourself the way God intends for marriage. Sail on.

      • My comment was to you, dt2929. I continue to be perplexed by your tirade here. Again, I write as a happily-married convert. My own experience stands in stark contrast to what you assert to be true.

        Regarding the Bidens, Pelosi, and other dissenting Catholics, I share your concern. Their hypocrisy is saddening to devout Catholics yet has nothing to do with whether our doctrines are true (nor did I pontificate that our church members’ behaviors are evidence of anything). Do civil law-breakers lessen the validity of civil law? Of course not. You are refuting an argument Catholics aren’t attempting to make.

        As for birth control, my husband and I were open to life long before becoming Catholic. I really don’t have the foggiest idea where you get your generalizations. I can only imagine that you have had a very negative experience as a Catholic yourself or as a Protestant from an unfortunate position on the sidelines.

      • FYI – dt2929 = Deuteronomy 29:29 -covers a multitude of the infinite mysteries we mere mortals cannot fathom. Thank you for responding to me; however, my “generalizations” were just that. These are posts not polemics. Just taking a mere look at the broad picture and having a fairly sound hypothesis from my 327 Catholic classmates from K-12 (graduation class from High School).

        For what it’s worth, I want couples to be happily engaged with their church. My point, if you read it, is that they are not to sacrifice their distinctive love for the ambitions or legalistic mores of a church that can control any part of their life. I have no personal bad experiences with my years as a practicing Catholic (love having to add adjectives). I had a great education, was mentored by many fine nuns and priests, no horrible experiences. [Moreover, my aunt spent 50 years as a nun.] In fact, they (the system) actually influenced by personal behavior favorably. I married in the RCC and even had our first child sprinkled. I attended Pre-Cana conferences and baptismal classes. Went to Mass regularly with no though of ever leaving my roots.

        But I cannot deny that I was converted on 1974 through no particular event other than hearing the Gospel and seeing it lived out in the lives of truly professing non-Catholic Christians. I argued against them for 18 months and when the night It happened (I do not believe in coincidences, so I call it Providence), I believed the Gospel that I was the sinner, that I deserved the punishment, that I could not work enough to satisfy the righteousness of a Holy God, and then the Spirit bent my wretched nature to create a new creature (read 2 Corinthians 5 – all of it). After that night, I went to Catholic Mass the following Sunday and even brought a friend. But the scales had fallen from my eyes and as hard as I tried to reject the new faith, I could not.

        Now, that does not mean I think the Pope or the Church is the Anti-Christ, etc. I am what I am by the grace of God. I do not seek to create havoc or derail any one–PERIOD. But I will not recant to an Institution that holds to the Council of Trent as still in effect not will I allow my personal feelings to overrule my conscience. In other words, you may be a Recovered Catholic – and I say AMEN. Enjoy your faith but do not be petty with closing thoughts as this: QUOTE: ” I can only imagine that you have had a very negative experience as a Catholic yourself or as a Protestant from an unfortunate position on the sidelines.” UNQUOTE.

        I have answered the first statement and I reserve the second for another day. A true Christian is never on the sidelines. Jesus left us with a message, “GO”!! That does not require further discourse. But do please respond either here or directly (Facebook will do ROBERT M. SPRUNG). Be well, have many children, but always remember that children are a gift from God. Cherish your wife above all, love your children more than yourself, and may you never experience the loss of any. Believe me, I know and nothing totally covers the pain. Be well.

  2. Find me a perfect church without ‘labels’ and I present to you a ‘cult’. We all label whether in church or earthly matters. This obession with ‘it’s all about Jesus not religion’ is itself a label. A way of defining how different a particular church is from religion while at the same time conforming to all the other churches who also think they’re unique in this way too – a new religion of no religion if you will.

    Now I’m not saying that ‘labelling’ as a general rule is a good thing, indeed with a lot of things in life, labelling leads to many evils. But the church is different, it’s supposed to be counter-cultural, it’s supposed to convey all that Jesus Christ said and taught. He saw all this coming “that they may all be one.”

    It stands to reason then that if Christ intended that we all be one, then there must be a Christian community which is itself one, with only ‘one’ label to follow Him without sub-labelling into Conservative, Liberal, Charismatic, Traditional, Right Wing, Left Wing, etc. etc.

    For me, there is only one Church that passes this test, the Roman Catholic Church; the labelled groups within the church are done so by people but the Church itself is ‘One’. That’s why the Mass is pretty much unchanged in is structure over 2000 years. The word itself, Catholic means universal or one and look at the words of Mass to see how many references to this ‘oneness’ there is – awesome and inspiring.

    • @Sean: Concerning your first question in para #1 as to substituting “Jesus” for “church” is NOT mutually exclusive. I meant church as in the Roman Catholic Church. Your list of self-sacrificing is commendable but that comes because of a true heart that is converted and exchanged by the new birth (Jeremiah 31:33). Piety exhibited with such panache’ is often fraught with self-serving goals (consider almost any religion including all forms of Christianity for more examples of what Barth notes as “pious fraud.” In other words, just do it and pretend (my version)).

      Now another quote for you from you: “the Church is ursurping any wants desires or needs but is fullfilling God desire, wants and needs, it is about sacrifice not what I want or my wife wants.” Yes, marriage is a three-way commitment – MAN/WOMAN/THE LORD. Nowhere in the Scriptures does the church (yours/mine) give credence to IT usurping the family. Read all of Ephesians 5 – starts with the example or pattern and ends that the man is the head as Christ is the head and he, the man, is to love his wife as Christ the the church (never says Catholic indoctrinated church or any other). The point is a marriage relationship built upon the Scriptures, a biblical church, and people of like faith gives the young couple a fighting chance in our uncivilized cultural morass. Many men and women have fallen for the church first and wound up on the all-used up ash heap of life. Consider the seriousness and walk circumspectly. Life as stated in 1 Peter 1:17 is the one that brings about devotion and proper attributes to worship and live. Ephesians 2:10 states that good works come (and are ordained) for us after grace has done, and continues to do, it work of changing the dead and vile, to the blameless and harmless. No church holds all the answers and yet it is an institution set apart as the saints sojourn. It is an oasis not a prison of guilt. Peace

  3. I grew up Roman Catholic and at the age of 22 I had a very powerful conversion. At that point I started going to a Non Denominational Charismatic Church and grew in my new faith and was involved in ministry. Now 38 years later I have returned to the Catholic Church.God has done so many great things in my life. It truly is the Church Christ started.

  4. What drew me back was of course the Holy Spirit. It all started about a year ago when I started looking at catholic beliefs on the Internet and I felt drawn to read more. As I would look things up I would question it and not agree. After a while I got a book on what Catholic’s believe and started to read it from time to time and I would argue with what was being said and as I began to study the more I started to find there were things I couldn’t refute. I also started listening to catholic radio and was finding that they believed in salvation and were very much on the same page as we are. I didn’t want to be catholic nor did I find it attractive and really couldn’t see myself there. When I got saved I took everything at face value and never thought about going back to the Catholic Church at that time. I had found Jesus and wanted everything He had for me. As I continued to study church history I learned it was the church Christ started and was the truth. I returned in January 2013 and I am so glad I did. Now I am praying that my wife will also soon.

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