The glorious Bride of Christ...

[NOTE FROM TIM: This article was posted on Baylyblog back in 2009. Church of the Good Shepherd is now Clearnote Church, Bloomington.]

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Acts 20:28)

He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. (Cyprian, martyred 258 AD; Calvin says the same in his Institutes)

(Tim) A couple years ago, I spoke at a Youth for Christ conference. There were around five hundred youth workers in attendance from a number of eastern African countries including Burundi, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda.

The conference's main events were led by a man's man. Sitting in the plenary sessions, it was clear he had the admiration and commitment of every man and woman there. They'd follow his God, go where he asked, and imitate him as he followed Christ. It was dynamic, missional, unpretentious, hardworking, and joyful.

Then there was the small group of pastors who watched from the wings. Next to the dynamism of the conference host, this group looked cowed. The host oozed manly leadership while these men oozed diffidence and timidity. As I watched, I noted how perfectly contrasted the church and the parachurch were there that week...

The parachurch leader had a bunch of white Americans working under his direction, donating materials and building his school outside as the conference met inside. He was musclebound and wore casual shirts that put the goods on display. He carried his authority loosely as a man with no fears. The pastors, on the other hand, were thin, dressed to the nines, and seemingly out of touch with the younger men and women in attendance.

After speaking to the young people, I had the privilege of speaking to the pastors, also. Of the hundreds of Christian workers at the conference, about fifteen were pastors. We sat outside the main conference hall in a semi-circle in the glaring sun while the dynamic events going on in the main conference hall could be heard a short distance away. After the meet-and-greet and some preliminaries, I asked the men (yes, thankfully, they were all men) what the church had that Youth for Christ didn't? Naming our host, I sharpened the point asking if there was anything they could contribute as pastors to the life of believers in their towns and countries that he couldn't?

Silence. A couple jokes softly spoken to cut the tension, then again, silence.

I didn't let them off the hook. "What do you have, as a pastor of a church, that he doesn't have?" I asked.

More long silence.

Then one man across the circle timidly asked, "The Sacraments?" and we were off and running.

This is the great failure of evangelicalism this past century. We've had no doctrine of the Church.

So, quite naturally, risk-taking men have abandoned her for the supreme status of the Academy and the relative freedom to take initiative and lead with authority characteristic of parachurch organizations. Only men lacking the requisite skills and entrepreneurial drive for these venues are relegated to the church and the pastorate. It was true of my Dad, my father-in-law, and fifty percent of the graduates from the seminary David, our brother, Nathan, and I attended--Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary: the best men were siphoned off for the Academy and parachurch leadership.

Coincidentally, it was nice that they could dispense with many of the nasties of the pastorate with the disclaimer, "We're not the church." Say it and you've dispensed with membership, discipline, death, and burials--and wonderfully, any Biblical prohibitions against woman teaching or exercising authority over man.

"We're not the Church."

But of course, it was the church with the Sacraments and birth and death and burial and the proclamation of the Gospel in that organic context that Christ our Lord died for, founded, and loves. The Church alone is the Bride of Christ and was given the Apostles as well as pastors, elders, and deacons--church officers. Parachurch organizations have no officers--just corporate titles and structures with no membership and no need to discipline that membership.

It was the Church Christ gave the power of the keys to; the Church that is commanded to bind and loose, to forgive and retain.

So, what's happening now?

We've sown the wind and are reaping the whirlwind. The church has been taken over by the parachurch, and now, Sunday morning, too, is a Crew (Campus Crusade) meeting with no right administration of the Sacraments, no right preaching of the Word of God, and certainly no Biblical administration of discipline.

Instead, dynamic entrepreneurial macho men wow the audience as smoke covers the stage and Seattle's Best is sold in the narthex to latecomers. There's no need to justify the absence of discipline, membership, or the Sacraments because no one's ever heard of them, anyhow.

What's my evidence?

As I said in an earlier post, Dad and Mud gave the best years of their lives to Inter-Varsity. Their first assignment was to be the first and only staff in New England. Later, Dad edited IV's His magazine, was IVP's publisher, served as Eastern regional staff supervisor, and for twenty-some years sat on IV's board. Dad Taylor also served on the staff of IV and edited His for a time before becoming Editorial Director of Moody Press, then founding Tyndale House Publishers. Both Dad Bayly and Dad Taylor were close to many of the leaders of evangelical publishing houses, colleges, seminaries, campus organizations, and missions.

More personally though, when I moved to Bloomington, the church I served had almost all the Campus Crusade, Inter-Varsity, and other campus parachurch group leaders in the congregation. In fact, several of them served as elders. And in that congregation, there was no right administration of the Sacraments, no church discipline, and much opposition to Biblical preaching of the Word of God. Typical of the degree to which the parachurch had corrupted the church, the elders didn't preside over the membership list. Rather, the harried church secretary added and culled names as she alone saw fit. "Hmmm, haven't seen John and Jane Doe for a while, now, have I? I'll take them off the list." And bingo, they were gone.

No pastor or elder went out searching for the lost sheep; it was strictly a matter of individual options and choices. Baptisms were done over and over again, for a spiritual rush or to memorialize an act of re-commitment to Christ with no questions asked. And of course, the Lord's Table absolutely wasn't fenced, Biblically. Many souls took the Lord's Supper who had never been baptized and many souls who were baptized did not join the church. Rather, each man did that which was right in his own eyes.

And now, when Church of the Good Shepherd places a man under discipline, placing him under definite suspension from the Lord's Table, other churches in the community claiming the evangelical heritage welcome that man into their fellowship, allowing him to eat and drink with them, no questions asked, thereby subverting the discipline Christ commanded. What is bound on earth and Heaven is not bound within other Protestant congregations. After all, they've never heard of such a thing.

It's time to return to the Bride of Christ, the Household of Faith, the Pillar and Foundation of the Truth, the Church of the Living God. And this will require those who fear God and honor His Word to deny the name "Church" to all 501c3 organizations either lacking or in principle opposed to the right preaching of the Word of God, the right administration of the Sacraments, and the right exercise of church discipline.

And by the way, if you're committed to restoring the Church to the believer's mandate and mission, don't make the all-too-common mistake of thinking denominations are the Church. Usually they aren't. Rather, they are trademark protection agencies seeking to use their trademark to advance their association, institutionally. There may be many churches within them; and also some presbyteries that still function in a way analogous to the Council of Jerusalem found in Acts 15. But a true church is a congregation of souls who have repented and fled to Jesus Christ, who are devoted to the teaching of the Apostles, the breaking of bread, fellowship, and prayer. True churches have the right preaching of the Word of God, the right administration of the Sacraments, and the right exercise of church discipline.

Few churches, and even fewer denominations, qualify.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

Comments

Tim,

I was reflecting today on my past involvement (both student and staff) with Campus Crusade for Christ today, as I met a young couple at my church that are currently raising support with CCC.

I talked to the husband, and we discussed various issues regarding Crusade and some of the reasons I was unable to continue in good conscience with the organization.

Afterwords, I was thinking about some of the things that I've learned since leaving Crusade, particularly the sophisticated ways reformed Christians absolve themselves of every relevant 'gap in the wall.'

Your post reminds me of the manliness and godly courage that permeated CCC at OSU and U. of Toledo in the 90's (probably still, but I don't know). Perhaps Crusaders benefit from always rubbing shoulders with university types that aren't shy about their hatred for God. Perhaps they are kept humble by the knowledge that the world will never respect them, so they may as well leave off the nuance.

Whatever it is, if I had to choose between having my boys Sunday-school class taught by a Crusade staff guy or a seminary-educated pastor . . .

Well, let's just say that my boys are a bit less likely to pick up homosexual affectations from Crusade staff men.

Okay, maybe I should reread this but I'm feeling like maybe I missed the point here. Eric seemed to take this post as speaking positively of CCC men, I could easily think you were saying this but I can't imagine you are.

> Instead, dynamic entrepreneurial macho men wow the audience as smoke covers the stage and Seattle's Best is sold in the narthex to latecomers. There's no need to justify the absence of discipline, membership, or the Sacraments because no one's ever heard of them, anyhow.

> No pastor or elder went out searching for the lost sheep; it was strictly a matter of individual options and choices.

Well, yeah, it isn't a real church so "real" men go there because "real" men don't want to have to deal with real church issues they'd rather be working out.

So on one hand I agree 100% because there are few men in churches today, but appearances can be deceiving.

Just as there are those men we've all met who have all the appearance of being a "man's man" - who shrink when their wife gives them the smallest look - so what do they do? They stay late at work, where they wrestle alligators while simultaneously fighting forest fires, because they can't lead in their homes and the real work of leadership scares. Often winning the admiration and respect of many young men while losing the respect of their sons (families). And thus not really teaching those young men anything of value because they don't really know how to bear fruit that can in kind bear fruit.

So as much as I hate (and have said this here on BB) men who take the "arrows in the hands of warriors" and break their points off, there are men who appear to be mice who lead their families faithfully raising sons as quiet lions who are forces to be reckoned with. There are also roaring lions who raise mice with big muscles, who roar quite often but say nothing when it really counts and are useless to God's Kingdom.

Like I said, I'm not sure what you're saying, Tim, sorry, I'm a little clueless sometimes.

Some of the men I've respected at CGS the most are those quiet men who lead their families faithfully - while others have been the type of "man's man" you describe. The appearance can vary, it's the substance that counts.

Love,
Clint

Several years ago, before I joined the congregation, my elders were hunting for a meeting place for their fledgling flock, and were discussing to possibility of using some other church's sanctuary for an afternoon service. That small church's pastor asked them about their distinctives, and they listed, among other things, church discipline. The fellow was taken aback and asked in a worried and bewildered tone, "You don't *stone* people, do you?"

Sadly, that is the level of understanding that most Christians have of church discipline.

Thanks for the post.

The focus here is not what is lacking in the parachurch but in the Church. The parachurch discussion was a grid to understand the sapping of authoritative eldership during the late-20th century.

The blurring of the distinctions between shepherds and sheep implicit in parachurch (or subchurch, rather) machines endangers souls when it becomes the norm for the pastorate. The sheep follow the most powerful and well-known of the sheep, or even dangerous wolves, and yet no real shepherding takes place.
Why does a pastor need to be a shepherd and not merely a well-behaved sheep whose example is followed? Because inevitably the believer will stray. The unrepentant straying believer should feel the sting of the shepherd's staff most acutely when he is banned from the table. However, if his shrewd shepherd is instead a drugged sheep, it's an endgame for the enemy of souls. Elders who don't fence the table don't love their people, regardless of the seemingly loving and open posture assumed by these charlatan non-shepherds. If communion doesn't discriminate between believer and unbeliever, it can't unite God's people, and becomes a meaningless shell.

Clint,

I'm sorry if my comments confused things. Tim's post triggered memories in me of what was good about Crusade. It's rare for me to think about such things, as the problems with parachurch organizations come to my mind much more quickly.

Anyway, my point was very simple. It is not at all surprising that men are drawn to CCC and like organizations. It is one of the few places where manly Christianity is regularly on display.

No doubt, its manlier to also discipline etc., but we don't expect young men to have any understanding of this at that point when they are comparing what they see in Crusade to the effeminate church experience of their youth.

Hmmm. I didn't think Pr. Tim's point was all that obscure. The money quote is this: "This is the great failure of evangelicalism this past century. We've had no doctrine of the Church."

That evangelicalism has had no doctrine of the Church is unquestionably true. But why?

Most accounts of evangelicalism I've ever read would say (if pressed to do so) that evangelicalism more or less rejects a doctrine of the Church as a premise to its own existence as an historical phenomenon. Those who self-identify as evangelicals might offer this or that exposition of ecclesiology, but in my experience it's simply a paper conviction.

The practical belief about the church comes down to this: the church is a voluntary association of Christians who band together to achieve mutually agreeable goals and to further mutually agreeable agendas.

The operative words here are:

Voluntary: the members move in and out of various churches at their own behest. There is no compulsion to pick or choose among the many options available to an evangelical beyond personal expediency in the service of individual goals and agendas.

Mutually agreeable: this is what "glues" the members together. So, an evangelical shops around for a congregation, seeking to maximize the degree of agreeability and to minimize disagreeability.

Goals and agendas: these define the various churches (or congregations). These also are subject to change in varying degrees. Congregations which are wholely independent of any denominational distinctives are apt to evolve over short periods of time, as the members change. But, even denominationally distinctive congregations (PCA congregations, for example) might display a wide spectrum of styles, commitments (practical and doctrinal), goals, and agendas within an ostensible set of boundaries (peculiar, in this case, to historic Presbyterian confessions).

As a young Christian, I perceived the Roman Church to be a monolith. This was a misperception, promoted primarily by the uniformity evident in its worship and public piety. Many years later, after learning much more from the Roman Church and its members, I saw that within it the Roman Church exhibits almost as much diversity as Protestantism.

So why the appearance of monolithic institutional integrity? Well, the Romans have both a theology of the Church and a practical outworking of that theology far exceeding anything within Protestantism (except within small Protestant sects such as the Amish and similar groups).

And evangelicalism? It virtually repudiates any practical ecclesiology, by saluting evangelical distictives and evangelical Christians across all denominational lines, and holding such distinctives to be the "true" marks of Christian identity and mission.

And, of course, evangelicalism of this sort has no institutional existence. Parachurch organizations operate on the same missional playing field as any congregation or group of congregations (i.e. a denomination).

Tim, What you are describing has been endemic to the American scene for well over two centuries( I think it started with Whitfield ). That is, the main event in American Evangelicalism has been happening outside the Church-beyond the reach of the Church's ability to apply sanctions. While this has no doubt been a response to the Church's dead orthodoxy( as with Whitfield and company )or whatever other failing the Church has exhited at any point in History, the undeniable consequence has been to relegate the Church to the status of optional. And now we've reached the point where the situation that you inherited in Bloomington has become all to typical.

The failures of the church have created opportunities for and the necessity of para-church organizations, maybe for a long time. Would you consider a monastic order a para-church organization?

I find myself more likely to be supportive of para-church organizations when they are first started, and less likely to be supportive of those which have been around for a while. Early on, men are drawn to the mission. Later on, they are drawn to the freedom.

Spiritual leadership is fundamentally charismatic and this is profoundly inconvenient for man, in that these leaders do not always fit into established religious institutions and their leadership cannot be institutionalized in a

bureaucracy.

Religious institutions can and do preserve sound doctrine, but they can also become part of the problem. At the same time the freedom with which para-church organizations can act can be good, but too much freedom eventually is not beneficial.

Many para-church organizations are started to meet a need which the church is neglecting, by men of vision, zeal for the Lord, integrity, and a calling from God to do a certain work. And God blesses them with real success. But sooner or later, sin, time and mortality take their toll. By the second, third or fourth generation of leaders, the organization has not only adapted to changes in the world, its mission becomes unrecognizable to its founder, its highest priority becomes its continued existence, and it becomes worldly.

And it gathers property and endowments so that it no longer needs the church. The church becomes a source of people to work, and money, but not a source of direction, until the reversal is complete and the para-church organization no longer serves the church- it is served by the church.

Because I don't want to end this comment on a discouraging not, let me conclude by saying that unless one is broadly tied to the status quo, there is always the hope of God's unmerited mercy, and faith in the surprising work of God's Holy Spirit.

Dear Paul,

Largely agreed, but keep in mind that the Church was founded by Christ--not parachurch organizations. And it was the Church's membership our Lord called the Apostles to delineate by the Sacraments.

Until we give the institution our Lord died for our first and best labors and men, we are not obedient to Scripture's mandate and commands. In other words, we must recognize that it's terribly wrong to allow the good to become, or continue to be, the enemy of the best.

Also, interestingly, much that you say about the failures of parachurch organizations can be said about churches and their denominational holding agencies, also.

Love,

Tim,

I couldn't agree more about the priority of the church in every way. I am inherently suspicious of anything which is half of one thing and half of another.

I was reflecting, as I think you were in your post, on the considerable and worthy work which has been done by men in para-church organizations, including those we both know.

>>I was reflecting, as I think you were in your post, on the considerable and worthy work which has been done by men in para-church organizations, including those we both know.

Indeed, dear brother, starting with Dad Bayly and Dad Taylor. Which is why I talked about the good being the enemy of the best.

Much love to you and Pam,

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